By Hoai-Tran Bui

WASHINGTON — UNITY: Journalists for Diversity has been faced with questions about how to move forward. The 50-plus journalists at the diversity caucus on March 14 all had something to say about UNITY’s role in bringing diversity to newsrooms — and it was all about having UNITY take on a larger part.

UNITY may see fundamental changes if it goes through with some of the suggestions laid out by caucus attendees. But in doing so, it could become a hub for diversity outreach in newsrooms.

“When the UNITY board met recently, we went through the same ‘who are we, what is our goal, what can we do?’ ” UNITY President David Steinberg said. “This is the first product of that meeting.”

Steinberg said he would like to convene regular caucuses.

“This sort of gathering doesn’t happen often,” Steinberg said. “I would like to see something like this once a year.”

He then launched into a story about the founding of UNITY in 1994 over what he called “crab diplomacy” – saying the organization’s formation almost didn’t happen after a tense meeting among the people who would go on to be come UNITY’s founders. But all was fixed after a jolly dinner at a crab restaurant. Steinberg said this caucus was somewhat similar to that crab diplomacy that took place 20 years ago.

“Together we can do so much more than just a minority alliance could,” Steinberg said.




UNITY Vice President Doris Truong rounded up some of the day’s tweets in this Storify.



By Hoai-Tran Bui

WASHINGTON — After lunch, moderator Jill Geisler asked the room: What more needs to be done?

The question brought a variety of answers and some disagreement among the journalists.

Kevin Hall from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers launched the discussion by talking about his organization’s decision to publicly oppose Arizona’s anti-LGBT bill. He asked how much advocacy a news organization should do regarding minorities.

USA Today’s Brent Jones suggested that newsrooms start thinking outside the traditional diversity model. John Antonio from CNN said that his company is sponsoring diversity receptions with top recruiters to foster the pipeline for hiring off-air talent.

UNITY’s Tomoko Hosaka said the diversity conversation should expand beyond traditional newsrooms to new platforms where hiring is happening.

“We need to expand our notion of the newsroom, as well,” Hosaka said.

David Louie from KGO-TV, representing the Radio Television Digital News Association, wanted to focus on whether diversity efforts by newsrooms are actually resonating in all their surrounding communities.

“I think there is a pushback, and there needs to be an examination into why we’re being rejected by communities,” Louie said.

David Johnston from Investigative Reporters and Editors suggested that newsrooms may need to work on developing their own networks in minority communities.

The discussion turned to how to recruit diverse young journalist who are new graduates. Justin Ellis from Nieman Lab said that younger journalists might be creating their own groups online and that newsrooms should try to reach out to these groups.

Virgil Smith from Gannett grabbed onto this idea, saying that he and his colleagues had discussed creating a virtual network for young journalists. He suggested partnerships among news organizations to form this network, allowing more room for collaboration.

The partnership suggestion was met with some skepticism.

“Partnership is great, but I will agree up to a certain point.” said Paul Cheung, president of the Asian American Journalists Association. He countered by suggesting occasional umbrella conferences to discuss these ideas.

“I think the issue is now we don’t know what we should partner” with, Evelyn Hsu of the Maynard Institute said. “We should work to know what each other’s strengths are.”

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Joe Skeel said newsrooms should figure out what’s actually going on with diversity in newsrooms and build collaborations to make their efforts work.

“We talk a lot, but are we really using our strengths to make things happen?” Skeel asked.

Geisler stopped the discussion to initiate small-group discussions about newsroom priorities.

A theme among participants was that UNITY should be the source for diversity outreach in news organizations. Some suggested that UNITY even take on controlling who gets what funding for diversity campaigns. Other suggestions were a UNITY-sponsored digital hub for job boards, databases and collaborative efforts among organizations.

“What is UNITY going forward: Will it be all-inclusive or partner with other organizations?” Louie asked.

 Additional topics:

• Deputy Editor in Chief of Buzzfeed Shani O. Hilton’s piece on what she learned on building a diverse newsroom became a topic of discussion on the #unitycaucus Twitter feed.

• Mary Hudetz from the Native American Journalists Association stated that Native American communities aren’t in news coverage: “Tribes are gaining tons of economic power in the regions, have more land in regions than other groups. The first thing is to remember the smallest of the groups. So when we talk about statistics, we weren’t in there.”
“Neither were Asian Americans,” AAJA’s Kathy Chow added.

• Corey Dade of the National Association of Black Journalists suggested that newsrooms allow their reporters to embrace all their skill sets instead of discouraging them from venturing beyond their beats. “You make your employees one-dimensional, especially minorities, they’re usually the first to leave,” he said. He also stated that people of color are often averse to risk and might not have as much entrepreneurial spirit as their colleagues.

“I think UNITY should start investing in entrepreneurism,” Dade said. “If you can help a young entrepreneur, give them unique set of skills and help make them more employable. And news organizations recognize outsourcing.”



By Hoai-Tran Bui

WASHINGTON — Pew Research Center Executive Vice President Paul Taylor talked about how U.S. demographics will change in the next 50 years, which he called “The Next America.”

By 2060, he predicted that the U.S. population would be 43 percent white, 13 percent black, 31 percent Hispanic, 8 percent Asian and 6 percent of other races.

Taylor stated there will be more “mutts” or people of mixed heritage. President Obama and many prominent celebrities are mixed race, changing the perception of stigma that once existed.

Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl commercial was a business decision from a company that understands the changes in demographics, Taylor said.

Taylor added, “Not only are we becoming a rainbow, but we’re also getting grayer,” saying that we are seeing longer life expectancy and lower birth rates. This results in top-heavy population pyramids, with almost as many people older than 60 as are younger.

Taylor said that by 2020, millennials will be 38 percent of the electorate. And most of them consume news through social media and mobile.

“You have to pay attention,” Taylor said.

During an hour luncheon, Marcellus Alexander, the National Association of Broadcasters executive vice president for television, shared initiatives that NAB is doing to increase diversity.



By Hoai-Tran Bui

WASHINGTON — UNITY President David Steinberg introduced the diversity caucus, stating that the goals of the caucus are to create partnerships to strengthen UNITY and open the door to conversations about diversity in the newsroom.

How is UNITY doing?

After a brief introduction of UNITY leaders Paul Cheung, Jen Christensen, Mary Hudetz and Doris Truong, Cheung and Christensen discussed the Heartland Project, sponsored by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

The Heartland Project is based in Nebraska, which has a strong LGBT community that is not often covered by mainstream media. The project will attempt to work with community groups and student journalists to increase the local coverage of the LGBT issues.

“We felt that in order for diversity to really work, we need to be inclusive and we need to start early,” Cheung said. Cheung and Christensen said that the Asian American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association hope to expand the Heartland Project.

Highlights from news organizations’ best practices

Jill Geisler from the Poynter Institute facilitated the discussion.

Tiffany Shackelford from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia talked about her realization that staff at the Washington City Paper didn’t know the local demographics. With little funding, Shackelford said they improved diversity with “baby steps, but 10 baby steps a year.”

The discussion turned to diversity committees, which many agreed should be done away with. However, some journalists were concerned that the news organizations aren’t ready to do this yet.

“Diversity is in our DNA.” — Paula Poindexter of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication on getting rid of diversity committees, saying everyone needs to be involved in diversity efforts.

“It’s one of those things if you don’t keep a spotlight on, it will disappear.” — David Boardman, president of the American Society of News Editors.

“For me, it’s about how effective [diversity committees] are. In our case, it’s important to our newsroom. I do think with the DNA, in every organization, I think it has to be a core value. Is it ingrained into your place? It takes a combination of many things — it takes somebody at the top, it takes insistence.” — Washington Post Managing Editor Kevin Merida.

 Irving Washington, director of operations for the Online News Association, talked about the importance of “diversity infusion.” If it’s a conversation happening at leadership level, it will be infused through all parts of organization.

“No one argues diversity isn’t important, but it’s like retirement: Everyone says you’re supposed to do it, but how many are proactive on it?” Washington said.

The discussion turned to leadership programs, as well as the “pipelines” of new hires from journalism schools and other news organizations. Paul Cheung said AAJA is deliberate in choosing economically and ethnically diverse students for its high school journalism program.

Boardman spoke about ASNE minority fellowships but was surprised more news organizations weren’t clamoring to fund these fellowships.

Poindexter said managers and editors should put pressure on deans and schools to get more diversity coming out of journalism schools.

Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president of news with McClatchy, was more pessimistic, saying that the whole “root system [of diverse hiring] has been damaged extensively” because of the recession and newsroom layoffs of the past five years.

Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and Margaret Holt, standards editor at the Chicago Tribune, insisted on the importance of diverse content in addition to diverse hiring. Maynard talked about training programs with grass-roots organizations, and Holt talked about journalist roundtable discussions with the community.

Shackelford said that maybe just looking at diversity in each other’s newsrooms is a “shallow way to look at the world.” She wondered if there are examples of other industries getting diversity right that could apply to newsrooms.

Additional notes

  • Emily Bell’s article in the Guardian that said the people behind recent high-profile launches of news brands such as Vox were hiring men like themselves, with few women and racial minorities on those staffs.
    • Jan Schafer of J-Lab was surprised at the vitriol of the comments, including “if girls would just earn it, they would get it.”
  • David Cay Johnston of Investigative Reporters and Editors suggested that newsrooms “motivate/punish hiring with money” so competent people aren’t overlooked.
  • Christensen noted that there was a lack of LGBT discussion in diversity hiring.
  • Boardman noted the changing nature of journalism, and how to incorporate diversity into that — a lot of alternative news don’t pay attention to it.
  • Shackelford suggested more collaboration among news organizations.



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