JOURNALISM EDUCATORS PLAY an important role in molding future generations of journalists, but few people of color are represented on faculties.
"The numbers are very grim," said Emilia Askari of the Detroit Free Press.
According to Askari, while less than 11% of all people in newsrooms are minorities ? and only 7.7% are managers ? people of color account for only 2% of journalism faculty members.
"It's a dire situation, and we have seen daily evidence of that lack of diversity affecting the news and the viability of the profession," she said.
Askari spoke at the recent Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in Washington during a panel discussion on the role of minority journalism associations in the accrediting process. Askari represented the Asian American Journalists Association.
"The American media do not reflect American society. Bias creeps in and others feel marginalized," she said.
"You are people who can do something about it," Askari told the educators.
She suggested that educators become more active in integrating professional journalists of color into j-school faculties.
She also recommended that journalism faculties use more guest speakers of varied ethnic persuasions reflective of the nation's diversity and that the educators encourage more discussions about racial diversity in their classrooms.
Askari, who is on the accrediting council, said she will not hesitate to vote against accrediting a school that she believes is not taking the steps to bring diversity to its classrooms.
She also encouraged other journalists of color to attend the council meetings as observers, noting even "silent participation can be effective."
Nancy Baca of the Albuquerque Journal said if she had a magic wand, there wouldn't be a need for minority journalists on the accrediting council because it would already represent diverse cultures.
"Our role on the council is to be a reality check, to see that this council somewhat adequately reflects the community," said Baca, who spoke on behalf of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Baca noted that many younger students do not have the forum for discussing racial and cultural issues, but college can provide the opportunity.
She sees college years as "a time to learn about a diverse group of things. If students can start talking about this, when they get out in the real world, they have some knowledge and can be more aware and more sensitive."
Also on the accrediting council, Baca said she saw some schools "maybe were not making the extra effort. I voted not to reaccredit them. I was a lonely voice. It was difficult, [but] at least we are in the room. The only way to make changes is to be at the table."
Baca, who said she has serious considerations about curriculum, recommended that if educators teach about minorities in the news media, they should bring in speakers to create a
forum for discussion.
Washington Post columnist Dorothy Butler Gilliam recalled that the National Association of Black Journalists became involved in the accrediting process because concerns about what was happening at journalism schools.
Gilliam, immediate past president of the NABJ, said she believes Standard 12, the standard for diversity, is simpler than it looks and is made more complicated than it need be.
Without minorities on the council, their perspective will be absent, she said, adding that the standard should be one of integrity and professionalism, not just an academic requirement.
"Journalists are emerging from the academy today who are not prepared to deal with this issue," Gilliam said. "If we think it is complicated now, hold onto your hats.
Dearth of minorities
"We will need talented journalists who can cover [racial issues] without pushing it toward further polarity," she added.
"We need people to add light, not heat."
Referring to the dearth of minorities among journalism educators, Gilliam asked, "How can 2% minority faculty have any impact on students who need to come out and cover a community that is at least 25% minority?"
The notion that journalism educators need a doctorate is "ludicrous" she said and severely limits the number of minorities on faculties.
The associations representing journalists of African, Asian, Hispanic and Native American heritage have drafted a diversity covenant with associations such as the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Newspaper Association of America and Radio-Television News Directors Association, Gilliam added.
However, while the minority groups pushed for greater emphasis on Standard 12, that section of the pact was dropped, Gilliam said.
"The lack of success as part of the covenant makes it an important question," Gilliam commented.
While minorities hold less than 11% of newsroom jobs, only 2% of journalism faculty members are people of color.
By: Debra Gersh Hernandez Minorities playing roles in j-school accreditation sp.