How Arizonans see diversity in the newsroom

By Tamsyn Stonebarger

Photo by MM on Flickr via Creative Commons

(Photo by MM on Flickr via Creative Commons)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, minority groups made up 37 percent of the U.S. population in 2013. But according to the American Society of News Editors, only 13 percent of newspaper journalists came from minority groups. The Radio Television Digital News Association reports 22 percent of local television journalists came from minority groups.

That disparity is prompting news outlets and research organizations to take a deeper look at the issue of diversity in the newsroom. The recent Nieman Reports cover story on “Race and Reporting” explores many aspects of the issue. Throughout this article, Susan Smith Richardson discusses the diversity, or lack thereof, within the newsroom and argues that a more diverse newsroom reflecting the demographics of the population could produce more insightful coverage.

I asked Arizona sources in the Public Insight Network what they thought about diversity in the newsroom and in news coverage, and I received a variety of views.

Charlie Steak mentioned in a response to the query that the diversity of the staff shouldn’t matter if journalists do a good job of reporting.

“I don’t think about the diversity of reporting staff until I hear something that reveals their cultural ignorance,” Steak said. “The color of the reporter’s skin doesn’t matter so long as they are educated and aware and sensitive to cultural differences.”

Jasmine Barber, of Phoenix, wrote that she believes diversity in the newsroom will make it easier to connect with different audiences.

“This [diversity in the newsroom] is important because a wider diversity is easier to relate to by those who are in the minority,” Barber said. “For the most part I believe the news I watch/read does well representing the valley.”

Barber is an avid reader of The Arizona Republic, a news organization making an effort to improve diversity in coverage of stories as well as within the newsroom staff.

Dianna Náñez is a reporter at The Arizona Republic and is also the diversity committee chair. The diversity committee analyzes coverage, brainstorms how to make coverage more diverse and hosts diversity dialogues.

“This year we wanted to expand on reaching out to communities and making sure we are hearing from people that live in our communities and getting feedback, so we started hosting diversity dialogues,” Náñez said. “The framework for those are identifying community members, community leaders from different diverse communities. We did one with the African-American community and we invited guests from the African-American community, speakers who talked about issues that were important for the community and gave us feedback for our coverage, talked about things that we can improve on and things we’ve done well.”

The Republic also has hosted diversity dialogues with the Native American community and others, and is working to create a more diverse staff.

How do you think Arizona newsrooms do in diversity of staff and of news coverage? Click here to share your thoughts.

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