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Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by oscaroscaroscar, Mar 4, 2011.

  1. I was about to post this in another thread before deciding I didn't think it was fair to further derail the initial intent of it. Maybe this is a better place to make the topic a general one -- which it should be, to me -- rather than a specific one.

    Is it fair for an organization like NABJ to discuss diversity with hiring editors or seek them out, if they happen to do so?

    I would say yes.

    We ask all kinds of folks in different leagues about hiring practices. We don't necessarily mean to question their integrity as much as we mean to remember the complete and utter lack of it that has taken place for decades upon decades -- in many ways. Granted, there can be questions sometimes on the way we choose to go about it, but the overall discussion to me is a fair and vital one. I think it's also fair to say that with such a delicate topic, there may never be an ideal way to go about it.

    Some on here seem to strongly feel it's wrong for groups like the NABJ to offer too much input, that it amounts to bullying and that a veteran, respected editor will automatically understand the importance of diversity. Many editors have shown they do. Others may not. Some on this board claim diversity is some kind of bonus prize that isn't necessary -- a statement that validates the need for groups like NABJ to have these type of discussions.

    Diversity isn't something that just looks good. It is essential, especially in journalism since our job is to chronicle history fairly and accurately. You need different perspectives to do that. Even if a good journalist is adept at seeking out perspectives, the one they were born and raised with is in there somewhere, and it's helpful to constantly be reminded of different ones.

    I can remember some extremely talented journalists, all white and middle-aged, walking past a nightclub on a road trip. There were a bunch of black people standing outside the club, minding their business. One of the journalists -- a well-respected and talented one -- said "Let's cross the street." My guess is the guy wasn't even aware of what he was doing. But here's the thing: No one said a word to him. Just crossed the street. I was young and on a new beat, so I didn't want to ruffle feathers. In retrospect, I should have said something. But if there's a few more people of color in that group, maybe that goes down differently and, at the least, a discussion is had. And maybe these type of things unwittingly seep into our coverage, as I suggested on the Howard Bryant thread.

    Another time, I was talking to an extremely prominent national writer and telling him about a talented co-worker of mine who was leaving. "I'm really going to miss her," I said. "Oh, yeah?" he said. "How are her tits?" "Ha, ha," I said. "Seriously, she's really good." "I don't care," he said. "How are her tits?"
    As talented as that guy is, he's still bringing that kind of a perspective to his work.

    Yet another time, an experienced, talented editor who moved on to many prestigious jobs was working on a story with a reporter, who was still raw, just a year or two out of school. The editor was white, the reporter was not. The reporter had a reference in a quote to the term "nigga." He had decided to write it as "n----" with enough dashes for the "igga." The editor insisted he add an extra dash, changing the meaning to "-er" which was completely irresponsible. Granted, you can say this just shows the editor was arrogant and/or flawed in researching a topic, but it's also an example of a supposedly more accomplished person at that point in their careers, presenting a piece of journalism less accurately than the young reporter.

    So, for me, considering diversity as a factor in a staff's ability to do its job properly is vital, not just a luxury.

    As for the unfortunate side effect that an increased discussion about hiring a diverse staff can lead to unfair questions about talented folks who are hired being labeled as "tokens," well let's be honest.
    Those folks hired will WRONGLY have to go through that anyway. I've never seen a job go to an African-American or a female without the whispers starting that it was just a diversity hire.

    I have heard a lot of complaints throughout my career from white males about all the jobs they can't get now because of "diversity" hires when the numbers still highly favor them. With that being the case, I don't see how people can fairly criticize folks who have been on the actual wrong end of such hires for so long to still ask questions. Don't blame them for that. There's a reason those questions needed to be asked and it certainly didn't come from the people asking the questions.

    Sorry for the long post, but this topic is obviously one that strikes a deep chord for me. I'm also apparently in an increasingly fervent quest lately to challenge Big Ragu's title as most verbose poster.
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    About a decade ago, I was working on a sports staff of 47 that had six minorities.

    We were told constantly that we didn't have enough minorities on the staff.

    Then one of the deputies found the graduation statistics that showed that of journalism graduates the previous year, 11.9 percent were minorities. We had 12.8 percent on staff, so the argument was made that we were doing pretty well.

    Upper management disagreed.
  3. dkphxf

    dkphxf Member

    Here's something that may get lost in this fight for numbers: Not every position is equal. A staff of 25 with five white editors, five white professional/college writers, five white copy editors, five white columnists and five minorities is much different than a staff with two black editors, a black college writer and two black copy editors. (And let's not forget that diversity isn't black and white. There are many other countries of origin to consider.) It's important to have a diversity of voices speaking, rather than a bunch of similar voices speaking to a diverse group of staff. (I can't remember if that is organizational bias or institutional, but someone from my alma mater may be able to help out.)
  4. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    To follow that up, there are many different types of diversity: gender or gender identity, ethnicity or country of origin, sexual orientation, religious, educational, socioeconomic, family status.

    A while back there was some talk of journalism not being socioeconomically diverse, because the only students who went into this field had parents who could subsidize college, then unpaid internships, then low-paying jobs. It's a fair assessment, I think.
  5. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Diversity is extremely desirable.

    Diversity, simply for the singular sake of diversity, is not.
  6. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    People have to be careful about thinking that having a "delegate" of various groups in their midst automatically gets them the view of that entire group.

    All Hispanics do not think alike, nor all Swedes, nor all blacks, etc.

    And Swedes from blue-collar backgrounds probably think more like Hispanics and blacks from blue-collar backgrounds than they do Swedes from upper-class backgrounds.

    You can overlay gender on the above and end up the same.

    Sprinkling in a few diversity hires into an editors' meeting or a writing staff gets you only that: Those specific people. It doesn't get you the mentality and sensitivities of their group.

    Otherwise, you're on the verge of saying "All Swedes think alike" when you dare not say "All Swedes look alike."

    As for this from oscaroscaroscar:

    "Diversity isn't something that just looks good. It is essential, especially in journalism since our job is to chronicle history fairly and accurately..."

    Uh, no. It is our job to make money for the people who own the companies for which we work. It is our job to produce a product that our audience will buy to read or advertisers will pay to reach that audience.

    Most readers/users don't give a hoot about bylines and surely don't care about the diversity of the folks providing content. If they care about anything, they care about the content. Demonstrate that your content will improve AND your bottom line will improve with diversity, then it's a desirable goal.

    Pursue it because it makes the hiring editors feel good about themselves or trendy when they have cocktails with their friends, and that not only won't serve the proper agenda but it could damage an otherwise productive staff.
  7. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    The Sporting News screwed up by not rounding out their big 4 with someone of Hispanic descent. They would have had a perfectly balanced mix.
  8. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Companies want diversity for PR reasons. To think it's some sort of noble goal they want to achieve is nice to think about, but not the truth.
  9. dkphxf

    dkphxf Member

    Part of the argument for diversity is having a wide range of voice being able to speak, which creates a more well rounded product in theory.
  10. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    The problem I have is when hiring decisions are made on something of a quota basis.

    Years ago, I applied for a certain position for which I was well-qualified. Interview went well and a couple of weeks later, I called the manager (who would be my immediate supervisor) to followup. He told me "I'd love to hire you, but the (boss' title) says the job has to go to a woman." That really irritated me. Not getting a job solely because of gender.

    Yes, I understand that racial/ethnic minorities face an uphill fight in many professions, not just media. But that road runs both ways. In the last 10-15 years, I've witnessed a lot of reverse discrimination against white males in favor of women and ethnic minorities being chosen for certain positions.

    Now, I understand that in certain locations and certain beats which involve coverage of certain ethnic groups, it could be advantageous to have a representative of that group on staff. However, in other places (such as where I currently work), ethnic minorities make up less than 2 percent of the population. When we advertised a recent job opening, we didn't receive a single application from an ethnic minority. I understand they may not wish to live/work here and, yes, it might be a bit awkward for them. Just the nature of this community, and others.

    I've always favored picking the best candidate for a job, regardless of race or gender. Seems to me to be the fairest result.
  11. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    How do you know the guy wasn't feeding you BS?
  12. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    When I look at a staff of a dozen white males, it makes no sense to me that a woman or ethnic minority couldn't crack that list. It's saying they are at least the 13th-best for the job, which I find hard to believe.

    It's like college football recruiting: How many Division I coaches would take the 400th-rated high school player in California over the top-rated player in Nevada? Almost all of them. Why? Because the perception that any player out of California, no matter how bad, is better than a player from any other state. That's crap.
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