Another day, another story on the lack of minority journalists in newsrooms. The latest iteration of this story came out on July 22 in the Columbia Journalism Review — “Why aren’t there more minority journalists?”
Writer and Ph.D candidate Alex Williams studied journalism trends in two reports: President Lyndon B. Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (known as the Kerner Commission) and the 2014 American Society of News Editors (ASNE) census. Both reports, published five decades apart, came up with a nearly identical number — fewer than 5 percent of newsroom employees are black. Williams came up with a laundry list of why.
But those of us in the media diversity trenches called foul, noting that we are out here, but media organizations aren’t doing what they can to find us. Robert Hernandez, a professor at USC, my fellow Online News Association board member and a co-founder with me and others of the Journalism Diversity Project (see my story here), gave All Digitorcracy permission to republish a post he did on Medium on April 24, 2014. And click here to see his reaction to the CJR report.
UPDATE: According to Medium’s metrics, around 50 percent of you are reading this piece. (Thank you!) So, for the tl;dr crowd, it’s basically this: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” —Gandhi (or Gandi-ish). This means everybody.
I decided to write this piece on Medium, the platform where you make bold statements and hold people accountable.
So here’s my first post: Read the headline. Read it again. Read it one more time.
It’s 2014, and while I am slowly coming to grips that hoverboards may never be a reality, I refuse to believe those hiring at news organizations can not find qualified diverse candidates.
That is bullshit.
For three decades, organizations like the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) and many others have mentored and developed journalists of color, attempting to change the ethnic ratio in newsrooms, trying to make them be more representative and inclusive.
I am a product of NAHJ, California Chicano News Media Association (CCNMA) and other alphabet soup organizations. Whether you like me or not, they shaped and guided me in my career. Now, as a professor, I am doing the same for my students.
Wait, what about women? Let me introduce you to Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS), which began in 1984.
What about gay journalists? There’s the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).
Don’t tell me you can’t find talented people when these organizations are dedicated to producing these talented people you seem to have trouble finding.
But how do you physically meet these people?
Each one of these organizations puts on a conference every year.
Go attend and engage.
Hell, go sponsor them too. Put your money where you claim your diversity mouth is.
Posting your job listings on these sites aren’t enough.
Talking to me — or others like me — for contacts is not enough.
No. More. Excuses.
But when I said you in the headline, I mean you, too, under-represented journalists.
I’m sorry, but don’t just sit there complaining about the lack of media diversity.
What are you doing about it? Are you sharing those job openings with your diverse network?
Are you applying for these jobs?
Don’t wait for them to recruit you.
Don’t wait for me to introduce you.
Don’t wait for someone to come along and give you the chance… take that chance yourself.
It’s you. You are the candidate we are looking for.
You need apply for these jobs, you need to go network, you need to prove them wrong.
You need to get in their faces and tell them ‘Hi. I’m here. I’ve been here. And I’ve been wanting to get in.’
And if you don’t like the options, create your own.
Practice and preach Horizontal Loyalty.
Now, I know I am coming across a bit rough.
Please know that this comes from love. I am here to help and I try to do my part. I’m happy to introduce you to candidates and share your job listings.
And, if you have read this far, you care about diversity in journalism as much as I do. Thank you.
I know it easier for me to type this than to do this. I know it is not that simple.
Here’s my point: Diverse, qualified journalists are here. Let’s all take some responsibility and do our part to get them jobs in our industry.
We’ll be better for it.
NOTE: There are some of you who might dismiss this post because I’m a professor and what do I know about jobs and taking risks.
I encourage you to learn more about my past and career path. I hope you realize, even today, that I am constantly struggling to justify my place in journalism.
There are people who still don’t think I am a journalist.
There are folks that dismiss me for any one of these: Being Latino; Not Latino enough; Too young; Too old; In academia; Not digital enough; Too digital.
And I know you feel these challenges too.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There are plenty of resources out there for media companies that are serious about hiring diverse journalists. The founders of the Journalism Diversity Project website, our goal was to eliminate that tired excuse of not being able to find quality journalists of color. We want the website to be a resource for newsrooms and journalists of color. We encourage employers to use the website to find qualified journalists for open jobs. And we continue to look for people who want to be on the website. 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 email@example.com and tell us why you should be added.
Robert Hernandez, aka WebJournalist, has made a name for himself as a journalist of the Web, not just on the Web. His primary focus is exploring and developing the intersection of technology and journalism – to empower people, inform reporting and storytelling, engage community, improve distribution and, whenever possible, enhance revenue. He is anAssociate Professor of Professional Practice at USC Annenberg. He has worked for seattletimes.com, SFGate.com, eXaminer.com, La Prensa Gráfica, among others. Hernandez is also the co-founder of #wjchat and co-creator of the Diversify Journalism Project. He serves on the Online News Association board and is a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He is the recipient of SPJ’s 2015 Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award.