By Rachel Whitesite
2017 UNITY Student Reporter

Is “Fake News” damaging the art of journalism? The topic was one of many that was discussed during the UNITY Journalists Diversity Caucus held in Washington D.C. at the National Association of Broadcasters Headquarters.

Jill Geisler who is Bill Plante Chair in Leadership at Loyola University was the moderator for the event and helped cover the many topics such as Covering Communities, Real News, Diversity in Political Media, and Newsroom Diversity. Geisler started out with a strong opening speech stating how every journalist has a story to tell, and how their must be a quest for diversity in the newsrooms.

Rachel Whiteside is a junior at Haskell Indian Nations University. She earned an associate’s degree in Media Communications and is studying for a bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies. She is from the Narragansett Indian Tribe, which is based in Rhode Island. Whiteside’s main interest is learning about print journalism and broadcasting. “I really would like to write for newspapers or magazines such as the National Geographic or New York Times in the future,” she says.

Those in attendance discussed how news organizations can respond to the increase in violent and often racially motivated attacks towards journalists and others. Carolyn Ryan, Senior Editor for Politics of New York Times were brought up the topic on how reporters are being framed in a bad light or targeted with bad propaganda to divert from actual reporting news. Carrie Budoff Brown, editor of POLITICO mentioned that “editors need to show more emotion towards their reporters. Journalists need to band together to reverse the demonization of American institutions, and to say that press doesn’t matter. When did press become the enemy?”

In “Covering Communities”, Michelle Lee of the Washington Post was the guest speaker on this topic with her involvement in the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) and their new task force covering Muslim America. “Covering Communities” gives ideas on how news organizations can help cover stories in diverse communities where people are most affected by policy changes as well as the public attitudes towards immigration and civil rights. AAJA created a Muslim American Task Force due to Donald Trump’s immigration ban this early year.  The Muslim Task Force helps protect Muslim Americans as well as other minorities affected. Lee explained there needs to be more journalist that are educated in covering well diverse communities, “many people have stories to tell but no one to tell it too, the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) gives those people a chance.”— (Michelle Lee, Washington Post)

Speaking on “Diversity in Political Media” Farai Chideya of Fellow brought up diversity tracking race and gender among reporters covering the 2016 election. She explained how there was a lot of slander and attack on journalist credibility happened a lot during the 2016 presidential election. “Whiteness” was mentioned and how the newsroom can report or discuss how it affects journalism. Should the news room cover “whiteness” in the media and a lot of the members of the conference agreed that it was of importance. Chideya explained how journalist of minorities and mainly minority women journalist are not represented in the newsroom.

Lastly, “Newsroom Diversity” was brought up with Simon Moya-Smith of Indian Country Media Network and Jesse Holland of AP Race and Ethnicity who gave their experience on diverse backgrounds dealing with the growing pressure to be advocates for their communities. Moya-Smith stated “people should be educated more when it comes to interviewing another race or ethnicity. Many journalists have made the mistake of saying or interpreting what is going on in that community poorly and having the community looking bad in the end.”

Holland mentioned how it is very important to separate personal feelings when reporting, “a journalist must not be emotionally involved” stated Holland, “you should know where your personal bias is and you have to know where your tolerance is, by understanding and knowing both is what really makes a good journalist. Not all stories will be tolerable and as journalist we must be prepared to report on stories that are gruesome or depressing.”

The annual Unity, Journalist for Diversity Conference overall was a successful event, covering the topic of “Fake News”. Opening a wide range of new issues brought up in the newsroom that weren’t even thought of before such as creating a Rapid Response Team or Muslim Task Force. These ideas help protect journalist and the communities that are targeted by social media or mass media, it’s the job of a journalist to report on what happens within the communities and to report on truth. Slandering and destroying the credibility of a journalist ruins the art of journalism and the 2017 Journalist for Diversity Conference was able to battle the defamation of freedom of press.

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