Editors Note: Earlier this week Neil Budde, Vice President and Executive Editor of The Louisville Courier-Journal in Kentucky, spoke with public radio WFPL about high profile newsroom layoffs in the past week that included the paper’s managing editor, metro editor and other prominent newsroom managers. Betty Winston Baye, a former columnist and editorial writer for the Courier-Journal, and an institution in Louisville, responded to Budde’s interview with questions of her own about the newspaper’s priorities regarding diversity in a city where the number of racial and ethnic minorities is increasing rapidly.
Baye was the only African American columnist and editorial writer at the Courier-Journal when she was laid off by the newspaper in 2011.
I get the part about promoting the digital product since that seems to be the way of the world. But the elephant in the room for me is whether Budde was asked about his plans to bring more ethnic, cultural and racial diversity to the newsroom in a Louisville that, thank God, is growing more diverse each year and making this city a much more interesting place to live, work, play and be educated. Or perhaps he was asked in a longer version.
I love Budde’s idea of giving reporters more flexibility, but who will be the reporters, whether digital or print, matters very much, at least to me. I am not arguing, for example, that only black folks can write stories about black people or only gays can write about Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. For me, life experience matters.
Where reporters come from, where reporters live, where reporters worship, where reporters went to school, who reporters pal around with when they’re off the clock matters. In my experience, reporters and editors coming out of differing experiences are apt to come up with a better mix of stories, are apt to ask different questions, spot different trends, can often distinguish b.s. from hype, can be internal resources for other reporters and management and often can get sources who are ordinarily, and understandably, suspicious of “outsiders” to talk honestly about what they’d be less inclined to share with reporters not from their group lest they be judged harshly.
I realize that resources to hire lots of new reporters apparently are limited, but I hope that greater diversity is high on the agenda for this next era of The Louisville Courier-Journal.
Betty Winston Baye is an independent journalist, a playwright and an adjunct college professor. Her hard-hitting commentaries about race, politics, social justice, African-American history and the black family have attracted a fiercely loyal national audience, many awards an guest appearances on radio and television across the US and abroad.