Diversity Remains A Complicated But Relevant Necessity

With 2020 noted as the year of promised diversity improvement, I saved an information graphic that Editor & Publisher Magazine included in its September issue. It stuck with me.

Headlined “How News Organizations Should Hire to Increase Diversity,” the chart summarized findings in the Gallup-Knight Foundation survey released earlier in year.

The survey of 20,000 U.S. adults answered this question: Which one of the following is the area in which news organizations most need to hire different types of reporters to increase the diversity of their reporting staffs?

The recommended top need wasn’t a surprise — it’s race/ethnicity. This year, we’ve seen newsrooms across the country launch initiatives with clear commitments to improve.

(What’s interesting about the top response — 35 percent — is the survey was conducted Nov. 8, 2019 through Feb. 16, 2020. George Floyd was killed May 25.)

Right behind race/ethnicity in the Gallup-Knight survey is another commanding need that newsroom face.

Political views.

That area finished in the Pew survey as the second most (30 percent) pressing hiring issue for newsrooms. It topped income or social class (18 percent), age (9 percent), and gender (5 percent), which finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

That newsrooms lean left of center creates a need for staffers who are right of center — even if objectivity is practiced as a standard in reporting.

The point of all of this is to have newsrooms that reflect the nature of the communities they serve and to benefit from a diversity of different perspectives, experiences and connections.

Ignoring a diversity of race/ethnicity and political views is probably costing newspapers readers and subscribers.

Want further proof on political views?

Consider this graphic I spotted this month from the Pew Research Center that indicates newspapers and other news organizations avoid the impact of the partisan divide at their own risk:

Dig deeper with Pew’s analysis:
“Across a range of measures, Republicans are far more negative than Democrats in their assessments of the news media. In a February survey, more than half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said news organizations don’t care about the people they report on (69%), are not professional (60%), are too critical of America (58%), hurt democracy (56%) and don’t care about how good of a job they do (54%). Democrats and Democratic leaners were far more positive than Republicans on all of these questions. The partisan divide in views of the news media extends to views of specific outlets, too, as a separate Center study found in January.”

Achieving meaningful diversity is vital for a news organization to be Relevant.

As we head into 2021, increasing diversity as measured by race/ethnicity as well as by political views are necessary game-changers that your readers want — and will notice.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget the other areas: income/social class, age and gender.

Add the reality of working during a pandemic and it’s admittedly complicated.

But press on. Never give up.

-TAS

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