Diversity in newsrooms leads to diversity in news

The recent audit of the San Antonio Hispanic Journalists Association, which highlighted the lack of Latino presenters on local news channels, is disheartening, but it’s only fair to look inside.

When I left my job as a reporter for the Express-News in 2009, the newsroom looked and functioned differently than it is now, but struggles for diversity persist. In December 2019, the SAAHJ sent an open letter to Hearst, owner of Express-News, demanding more diversity in newsrooms.

Editors have work to do. The Express-News masthead features the names of three white men, and the management team is only 30 percent colored, although just over 18 months ago it was was zero.

Progress should not be minimized, even if there is still work to be done.

In December 2020, Hearst announced a donation of $ 50,000 to SAAHJ for scholarships. And a shift started last year at the Express-News, especially after Mark Medici was appointed editor in February 2020.

The majority of Express-News editors and directors who drive most day-to-day coverage and hiring decisions are people of color – out of five newsroom directors, three are Latinos. About 70 percent of columnists are people of color.

Of the approximately 240 Express-News employees across the company, there is an even distribution of women and men, and 44 percent are people of color. There is now an active Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Still, the demographics are disproportionate with San Antonio, where people of color make up 75 percent of the population.

I’m grateful to be a member of the editorial board of Express-News, a small, diverse team that includes a white man, a black man, a Hispanic man, and me, a Latina.

We all have work to do. The image of the diversity of television news is disconcerting. The SAAHJ audit, released May 24 and approved by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, examines local English-language television stations, excluding KLRN or Spectrum News. The report examines 55 San Antonio anchors. He found that a quarter of San Antonio’s television news anchors are Latinos.

KSAT anchor Isis Romero tweeted about the audit: “San Antonio can – and must – do better.”

His words matter, but those in power to hire and retain journalists of color must listen and act.

The expertise of journalists is closely linked to their ability to reflect the communities they cover. As a Hispanic woman, I practice some aspects of journalism differently than a white man. My values ​​and experiences shape the stories I tell. This is true for all journalists. Whatever their origin, every member of the media should strive to be fair and ethical. But we all have filters that affect what we cover, who we interview, what questions we ask and what facts and opinions we include.

If journalists are unlike their communities, they risk missing important stories or grasping their meaning for the public. They may be wrong or not tell it at all.

Locally, forward-looking nonprofit SA2020 calls for responsible and race-conscious data analysis and storytelling in its 2020 Community Impact Report, urging media to consider: “This story puts it show the institutional obstacles? Does it show how change requires institutions from all sectors to work together? “

The struggle for diversity in American journalism is as old as its roots. Newsroom workers are less diverse than American workers in general and are more likely to be white males, according to the Pew Research Center. They also found that 53% of Americans say news agencies don’t care who they report on.

U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio native and Democrat who led the Hispanic caucus, met with media officials to advocate for greater representation of Latinos. “Not only are Latino faces missing too often in American media, but the Latin narrative is also missing,” Castro said. “I am convinced that most Americans do not know who we are, what we have brought or where we are in the country.”

Clearly, more needs to be done to train journalists in diversity and inclusion, and to recruit, train and educate more diverse journalists.

Here’s what I see as vital to the future of Express-News: Transparency is improving, and there is a purpose and value in having a team that reflects its community. Many leaders won’t even discuss diversity, but our editor accepts it. He welcomed an interview but did not review this column before it was published. Medici addresses diversity by answering questions from staff and the community. He does not shy away from responsibility and is committed to greater diversity.

“Our job is not done,” Medici said.

Honest and accurate journalism breeds resilient democracy. It also brings about imperative social change. Without journalists of color helping to create powerful stories, we risk everything.

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