Diversify.JournalismWith.Me features select digital-first, multi-platform journalists with expertise in everything from coding to content strategy
Anyone in the journalism business knows the industry has had a long-time problem with diversity. With the advent of converged digital newsrooms and myriad media start-ups, the problem has only gotten worse despite the best efforts of key players and organizations.
The issue first came to a head back in late 2010 when Retha Hill, after attending News Foo at Arizona State University wrote an essay for PBS MediaShift entitled “Why Are New Media Conferences Lacking in Minorities?” Hill, a digital pioneer at washingtonpost.com and BET.com, is the executive director of the digital innovation and entrepreneurship lab and professor of practice at ASU. Hill named journalists of color doing great things in the digital space, including: Dr. Sybril Bennett of Belmont University; Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew; Rick Hancock of MyMobilelyfe; Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Associate Dean for Innovation, Research/Creative Activity and Graduate Studies at Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University; and Chuck Creekmur and Greg Watkins of AllHipHop.com.
Hill’s post sparked a discussion and a TweetChat, but most importantly, caught the eye of Emma Carew Grovum, at the time a digital journalist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She decided that talk wasn’t enough, and so she created the Diversify Journalism With Me spreadsheet to serve as a resource for hiring managers and event planners who were always complaining that they couldn’t find qualified journalists of color in the digital space.
Grovum recruited a group of us with strong ties to the digital journalism community: Sharon Chan of the Seattle Times; Robert Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at the University of Southern California; Michelle Johnson, Associate Prof. of Practice, Multimedia Journalism at Boston University; Doug Mitchell, a consultant and project manager for NPR and college instructor; Juana Summers, a reporter at NPR; and me.
The original list came out in early 2011, and for awhile, it was growing like gangbusters, reaching 130 listings. Just about anyone who wanted to be on it could. Then life got in the way, and the project fell by the wayside — until last fall. A group of us attending the Online News Association in Atlanta praised the organization (I serve on its board) for doing such a great job to have diverse speakers, and the conversation went from there.
That led to the group members talking about getting back together and updating the spreadsheet. But what really pushed the discussion forward was this piece — Journo-diversity advocate turns attention to Ezra Klein project — written in March by Erik Wemple of the Washington Post.
A flood of similar pieces followed, which led us to get serious about reviving the spreadsheet. We all agreed that the Google spreadsheet format was old and tired. We also agreed that the list needed to be more exclusive to show the industry we were serious about offering them the best of the best.
So we started from scratch, Thanks to Robert Hernandez, we secured the services of our project angel, Jenn de la Fuente, a former journalist who now owns the web design firm Rosebud Designs. She created the new website, which we feel looks more professional. The group also reached out to their networks and invited people we felt should be included, which is reflected on the site.
In the end, the goal was to eliminate that tired excuse of not being able to find quality journalists of color. The website, which currently has 35 listings, will continue to grow, and we hope it will be a resource for newsrooms going forward. Please be patient with us. We all have day jobs, and not everyone who applies will be accepted. So if you’re interest in being on the list, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why you should be added.
Benét J. Wilson writes for a non-profit aviation association. She is also an aviation/travel freelance journalist, and has written for publications and blogs including CrankyFlier.com, ACI-NA Centerlines, Aviation International News, Airport World, the Airline Passenger Experience magazine. and the Runway Girl Network. She is currently a board member for the Online News Association and Vice Chair, Education, for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force.