Newsrooms Take ‘Time-out For Diversity’

By: Arlene Levinson, AP National Writer

(AP) For the fourth year in a row, newspapers across the country are taking part in a weeklong effort to foster diversity in their coverage and newsrooms.

“Time-Out for Diversity IV in 2002,” a joint project of the Associated Press Managing Editors and American Society of Newspaper Editors, asks editors and staff to look inward in hopes of doing a better job of recruiting, hiring, and keeping employees who represent American life in all its variety.

Their partner in the project is the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which promotes diversity through its training and Total Community programs.

The Seattle Times, which regularly invites readers in to comment on coverage, is using the week to craft a survey of current and former staff to learn more about their experience there, said Suki Dardarian, Times assistant managing editor/metro news and organizer of this year’s Time-Out nationwide.

“If you feel like you’re helping the newspaper accomplish its mission, then you feel plugged in and it’s a more rewarding experience,” said Dardarian, an APME board member. Additionally, the newspaper’s credibility task force planned to discuss issues of sensitivity in headlines and editing, she said.

For five days, the theme at the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle is: “Help us understand our differences.”

Improving newsroom diversity is a year-round effort, Assistant Managing Editor Jim Herman said. “That’s everyday stuff,” he said. “Our newsroom goal this year is really focused on the quality of our work.”

That means having a sharper focus on how the newspaper covers its own city in upstate New York.

Each day this week, Rochester residents will visit to critique the paper. Staffers can attend two workshops. One will be readers of Hispanic background suggesting how to report daily life, beyond events. The other will feature diverse perspectives: sexual orientation, race, religion, and the like.

The paper will unveil a new reporter’s minority source guide and inaugurate four weeks of weekly sessions in which top editors meet with 14 Hispanic residents.

At The Associated Press, the news cooperative’s diversity council, an advisory group of managers, is planning various projects for bureaus around the country in the coming weeks. AP’s Chicago bureau, for example, will host a lunch with groups representing Arab-American journalists.

At The Dallas Morning News, community leaders will attend news meetings. Staff will tour a Buddhist community center. A popular preacher and motivational speaker will address the staff on “the awesome power and authority they have and why diversity really translates into accuracy,” said Dwayne Bray, assistant sports editor and chairman of the paper’s Time-Out committee this year.

On Wednesday, the Morning News will hold an in-house cultural fair. Besides catered Mexican, Asian, and soul food, music will be provided by a marimba band and the Dallas Morning News Choir singing gospel.

In addition, there will be an informational table set up by Morning News staff belonging to associations for black, Asian, Hispanic, and gay and lesbian journalists.

Newsrooms holding these and other events are invited to report on the results on the APME Web site. Results will be presented in late October at the APME conference in Baltimore.

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