Saturday, May 4, 2013

Panelists discuss diversity in the newsroom

By Jordan Gass-Poore'

Professional journalists Tommy Calvert Jr., Mike Leary, Jeff Zimmerman and Monica Rhor spoke about ways to further diversify American newsrooms during their panel at this year’s SPJ Region 8 conference.

“At every paper I’ve worked this has been an issue and a problem,” said Rhor, who previously worked at the Houston Chronicle, Associated Press, Boston Globe, among others. “…It’s still an issue. It’s still a problem.”

According to the American Society of News Editors, 12.32 percent of minorities were employed in daily newsrooms last year. That number has steadily dropped since its peak of 13.73 percent in 2006.

The report lends itself to Rohr’s concern about newsroom leadership and management, which she considered to be reasons why there are fewer minorities in the field.

Rohr said unpaid internships may also hinder newsroom diversity, but not necessarily in ways people may expect.

The panelists agreed that newsroom management should broaden their definition of diversity to include gender, sexuality and socioeconomic status when considering new hires.

“We look at diversity in the traditional method,” said Zimmerman, vice president, general manager and director of sales at Univision. “Older white-haired gentlemen shouldn’t dictate who you hire.”

Instead, newsroom hires should be relevant to the consumer, Zimmerman said.

Leary, San Antonio Express-News editor, said about 38% of the company’s new hires are minorities, which is a reflection of the “majority-minority” city, which also includes a large population of people in the military and retirees.

“You want a newsroom that has life experiences… and can generate stories based on their own experiences,” he said.

Calvert said KROV 91.7-HD2 FM has become united through diversity. The station he helped to found and is now general manager of began as a way for people in the San Antonio African American communities to have a voice in broadcasting.

“Our multicultural world demands inclusion,” he said. “Consumers want to see themselves reflected in the media.”

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