Racial Exclusion From J-School To Newsroom p.12

By: Robert Neuwirth In a nation increasingly diverse in race and ethnicity,
attitudes change slowly, yet newspapers that resist could pay dearly
Pronouncing journalism schools guilty of "institutional racism" for failing to recruit minority students or faculty, Chuck Stone, journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, called on U.S. newspaper publishers to commit to making their employees look like their communities.
Speaking at the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention in Dallas, Stone, a former editor at African-American newspapers and the Philadelphia Daily News, saluted newspapers for making strides to increase diversity, but argued that a solution requires executive commitment. His comments came during a discussion of changes in the newspaper business during the 30 years since the Kerner Commission, which found the media culpable, in part, for misrepresenting urban life and thus contributing to the riots that engulfed more than 100 American cities in 1967.
"If you live in a country that's run by committee, make sure you're on the committee," Stone said. "American publishers are the committee. The commitment has to come from the publishers, not just the editors."
Though surveys show that 87% of the newsroom openings in the country are filled by journalism degree holders, Stone said, as many as three-quarters of U.S. journalism programs have no minority students.
African Americans and other minorities now make up 11% of the staff of major newspapers, and individuals are reaching the upper echelons of the news business. Stone said that there are now 131 members of minority groups in top newspaper positions around the country.
"That's a long way from nowhere," said Gregory E. Favre, executive editor of the Sacramento Bee, "but almost half of the newspapers in the country don't have a single minority staff person."
Favre called for publishers to start a "coalition of conscience" to improve minority representation at newspapers. "We should make diversity into company policy," he said. "We should have regular content reviews, constantly asking ourselves if we are being inclusive. Go back and look at a month's worth of newspapers and see what you really cover."
Both Stone and Favre criticized a proposal now being debated by the National Society of Newspaper Editors to back off its stated goal of having parity ? newsrooms that reflect the proportion of ethnic groups in the population ? by 2000.
Stone noted that some publishers and editors felt that the goal, while laudable, was not achievable. "They call it realism," he said. "Minority journalists call it rejection."
Stone said USA Today proved that newspapers can hire minority reporters and change the imagery of non-white Americans depicted in the media. The paper recently ran a Page One feature on vacations and illustrated it with a large photo of an African-American family.
Still, Warren Dews, circulation telemarketing manager for the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times, presented a reminder of just how deeply race pervades perceptions. After his appointment, with picture, was announced in the paper, some readers complained that Gannett Co. was turning the daily into a "minority newspaper." Dews also said he faced some internal resentment from people who believe his advancement is based on his race rather than the merit of his work.
John Dotson, president and publisher of Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal and moderator of the discussion, acknowledged that he probably wouldn't be where he is if not for the unrest of the 1960s. "I owed my career to the brothers rioting in the streets," he said, noting that papers found themselves forced to promote black reporters to more desirable beats when otherwise they might have languished.
Favre, whose Sacramento Bee newsroom is 25% minority, sounded a stern warning for papers that resist the movement to newsroom diversity: "If we don't mirror our communities as they exist, then we may not have growing newspapers to publish."
?("If you live in a country that's run by committee, make sure you're on the committee. American publishers are the committee. The commitment has to come from the publishers, not just the editors.") [Caption] d
?(? Chuck Stone, journalism, professor, University of North Carolina) [Caption]
?("If we don't mirror our communities as they exist, then we may not have growingnewspapers to publish." ) [Caption]
?(? Gregory Favre, executive editor, Sacramento Bee ) [Photo & Caption]
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 25, 1998) [Caption]


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