Views from abroad: Newsrooms need to do better

Veronica Wernicke, Assistant Opinion Editor

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Welcome to another edition of “Views from abroad,” lads and lassies. In key with last week’s edition, I wanted to continue discussing the issue of diversity. Although, this week’s issue of diversity lies in the very field I work in and love: Journalism.  

I did not need my Ethical Issues in Journalism professor – a white man, incidentally– to teach me that there is a lack of necessary diversity within the field of journalism.

It is no secret nor a recent phenomenon that there are not nearly enough women or people of color writing for prominent news outlets.

With both the lack of diverse writers and editors comes the issue of accurately reporting on issues. Most of these writers are outsiders to the issues they report, which means they are not able to fully or accurately report.

In a piece from The Guardian, Jelani Cobb, a black man, wrote about this issue first hand.

“It was not lost on me that the journalist who wrote the story was white and that the neighborhood was largely black and Latinx. The article represented not simply a case of a journalist missing a story. The story, to me, spoke to the problem of what happens when the demographics of the Times – and American newspapers in general – look nothing like the demographics of the communities they cover. The people who are most likely to appear in these kinds of stories are the least likely to have a say in how those stories are told,” Cobb said.

Pick up any newspaper – or scroll through one online as that’s how journalism is consumed nowadays – and you can easily find an example of what Cobb wrote.

The article also noted that in 2017, people of color made up only 16.6% of the journalists working for a daily newspaper.

16.6%. Let that sink in.

Although, this problem cannot be solely blamed on the less-than-diverse writers in the newsrooms. The root of the problem lies higher up in the people who make up the editorial boards and Board of Directors (BOD).

According to The New York Times website, only three women and three people of color make up less than half of the 14 BODs. The website also shares that only three women and one man of color make up the 13 executive team members at The New York Times. So, out of the 27 available leadership positions, not even half are held by women or people of color.

These numbers leave a disappointing and sour taste in my mouth. It is 2019; why are we not doing better?

Although, this popular and prominent news outlet has acknowledged this and is making strides to improve their newsroom diversity. And, of course, The New York Times is not the only news outlet with diversity issue; they just happen to be a prominent and transparent example to pull from.

According to Sarah Ledden’s 2015 research, while women make up 68% of journalism graduates in the United States, only 19% are in leadership roles.

Can you guess who makes up the majority – I’ll give you a hint: old white men.

While I take more personal heed of the lack of female representation in the field of journalism and its opportunities for leadership roles in addition to the infuriating accounts in which women in the media are far too often portrayed, I understand and empathize with the issue of low racial and ethnic diversity in the field as well.  

As a young woman studying Communication Studies and Journalism, these numbers are worrying. I have always loved writing and have known for the longest time I wanted to become a journalist. So, I hope I can help change these dismal numbers.   

I hope to make journalism better.

I hope that all journalists, both present and future, regardless of their race, gender, or ethnicity, can help improve journalism’s diversity.

The field of journalism can and needs to do better. More diversity within news outlets would only allow the production of more accurate news pieces. Readers can help this issue by knowing who writes the news they are reading and trying to consume news from more diverse newsrooms.  

Cheers from Scotland!