And won’t attend all-male ones either
I’ve long been fed up with having diversity treated almost like a sideshow at journalism conferences. You have your main panel, often featuring the top white men in the game, talking about audience reach, engagement and other business metrics. And then you have the usual, separate sideshow about reaching diverse audiences. No, no, no. People of color should be part of the main conversation to begin with.
That’s part of the overall problem with news organizations and the journalism conferences they sponsor. All too often they cater to white, affluent users and ignore everybody else (or they program for white journalists while ignoring journalists of color).
Well no more — at least not for me — I said to myself after speaking to a room full of people of color at a conference last year. No more preaching only to the choir. I was adamant. Still am.
Earlier this month Poynter published a column about why digital rock star Sree Sreenivasan will no longer appear on all-male panels. The sentiment isn’t new. Sree made his proclamation weeks after several other men had already done so. (See here, here, here and here). Sree, according to his Facebook post, wants to start a movement against all-male panels. Though it’s clear that said movement is quite underway already.
I am proposing a new movement, one I’ve been thinking about for a while. But it all came to a head a week ago when I conducted a training session at the University of Oregon for its journalism school’s faculty diversity committee.
I was there for the training, but also to talk about audience growth, collaboration and inviting others into the storytelling process. When I walked into the cream-colored conference room, all I saw was white men looking back at me. (Well, one trans woman was present but she had only recently begun her journey, having lived the first 40-something odd years of her life as a white man.) I can’t say that I was surprised or shocked. This was Oregon, after all. But it did force me to realize that I need to be more specific in my mandates.
We can’t afford to have only people of color talking about diversity. But we don’t need a room full of only white people leading the discussion either.
Hence one of my problems with using the term “diversity.” People no longer know what the word means. I can tell you what it is not. It’s not all-male panels. It’s not even all-white-male panels with one white woman. Diversity means we should all be at the table talking about the complexities of race, gender identity, ethnicity and sexual orientation in order to constructively confront important challenges currently facing the industry and society in general.
To that end, I’m keeping my original promise, with a tiny tweak: No more participation on monolithic panels. I’ll continue to talk to rooms full of white faces — somebody has to I guess. But from now on when it comes to diversity panels sans the diversity, I won’t be sitting on or attending them. Period.
Maybe Sree and I can start a new multifaceted movement together.
Sree, call me.
Tracie Powell is founder and editor-in-chief of AllDigitocracy.org. She has spent the past year researching data analytics, audience engagement and growth as a JSK (Knight) Fellow at Stanford University. She’s continued, during that time, to speak and present on media and diversity issues. Follow Tracie on Twitter @TMPowell.