Losing touch: Why newsroom diversity matters

June 12, 2019 01:30

San Antonio Riverwalk

San Antonio is my home. It’s a city on the move, welcoming an influx of people every day, making it one of the fastest growing large cities in the country. It’s a rich tapestry of people representing an array of cultures, races, and experiences, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds. As a city, San Antonio is a true melting pot. Hispanic, American Indian, African American, White, Asian. Baptist, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic. Spanish-speaking, English-speaking, woman, man, LGBTQ. Wealthy, middle class, working poor. There’s very little that’s “typical” when it comes to this remarkable city.
So, why would we want our newsroom to be “typical?”
The RTDNA Kaleidoscope Awards recognize excellence in coverage of diverse communities.

In such a diverse city, it is the responsibility of a newsroom to reflect the community we serve. If we don’t reflect our community, we can’t possibly cover it accurately and authentically. That means women and men. That means people of color. That means journalists from a variety of backgrounds, young and old, with a wide range of experiences, who’ve walked the walk and who understand and identify with the people with whom they interact. The person at home or at work who’s watching our newscast or reading our articles should be able to see the person who is reporting the news and think, “That looks like me. They sound like me. They understand me.” Without this rich variety of backgrounds and experiences, we run the risk of overlooking important issues that our audiences find important. We run the risk of being out of touch.
How diverse are local newsrooms? Our 2019 local radio and TV news diversity report shows how far we've come and how far we still have to go.

“What your newsroom looks like makes an enormous difference on what you cover, what you don’t cover and on how you cover it. Everything about what you do will suffer to the extent that you don’t have a diverse newsroom.” - RTDNA Newsroom Survey researcher Bob Papper

Just as important as diversifying our newsroom team is the need to layer in that diversity in our news coverage. We must cultivate a myriad of voices who contribute to the conversation; from the expert offering context to a story to the woman on the street reacting to it, we owe it to the communities we serve to feature their voices and their perspectives.
These 2019 Kaleidoscope Award winners are outstanding examples of inclusive reporting.
We’ve come a long way in the years since I first stepped into a newsroom. More minorities, more women, more perspectives are in key leadership roles in newsrooms all over the country. However, we’re not done yet. In truth, the commitment to a diverse news staff and diversified news coverage may never really end. Our communities will change. They will grow, and their perspectives and issues will expand. In order to continue effectively covering them, journalists will have to evolve with them.