UPDATED ON SEPT. 25, 2020

We believe that America’s newsrooms should reflect the diversity of the communities that they cover. Unfortunately, that’s mostly not the case, and we at the Institute for Media and Public Trust are working with partner organizations to launch a program that will mentor young journalists of color.

The goal is to increase the diversity in San Joaquin Valley newsrooms. We are particularly concerned with the under-representation of Black journalists in news media today, and it is time that this diversity challenge be rectified.

Our program will offer students a five-year paid pathway to a journalism degree, and ultimately employment at local media outlets. Each year, we will add a new class of students of color, building an ongoing pipeline of multi-media journalists to our region.

We are working with the journalism programs at Fresno City College and Fresno State, and we are partnering with The kNOw Youth Media, which since 2006 has been helping young journalists with media training so they can tell stories about the communities they live in.

Applications soon will be available for the program, and the first cohort of eight students will be chosen in October. Applicants must be high school seniors, and the goal is for them to stay with the program through college graduation. They will be paid $300 per month for nine months each academic year.

San Joaquin Valley newsrooms must be more diverse if local media outlets are going to tell the full stories of their communities.

“When a newsroom fails to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves, its ability to report with authenticity, sensitivity and perspective is severely hindered,” says Dr. Kathleen Schock, journalism instructor at Fresno City College and host of Valley Edition on Valley Public Radio. “Yet we know that newsrooms in the U.S. are far less diverse than the overall workforce. A 2018 Pew Research analysis found that 77% of newsroom employees identify as non-Hispanic whites, compared to 65% of all workers in the U.S.”

Schock, a member of the Central Valley Journalists of Color steering committee, says this “glaring diversity problem influences which stories are covered, how stories are covered, and which stories are ignored.” When a newsroom does not reflect its entire audience, it is difficult to earn the trust of this important segment of the community, she said.

“As a Black woman, who works both as a journalist and an educator, the diversity problem within the profession is of great concern to me,” Schock said. “That is why I’m so committed to supporting the Central Valley Journalists of Color program, which actively addresses the disparities by building a pipeline of young journalists who will bring vital perspectives to newsrooms throughout Central California.”

Dr. Kathleen Schock, steering committee member.

The program will offer regular training workshops to prepare high school seniors for a media career, and also give them academic advising support to get them on the college path, and navigate toward getting a college degree. Students will write and create multi-media news projects for The kNOw. We also will offer their content to other local media outlets.

Dr. Dympna Ugwu-Oju, editor of the Fresnoland Lab at The Fresno Bee, believes the project has the potential to transform the culture in San Joaquin Valley newsrooms.

Dr. Dympna Ugwu-Oju, steering committee member.

“The Central Valley Journalists of Color program is destined to have a profound effect on not only Fresno, but the entire central San Joaquin Valley, the community we aim to reflect and inform, she said. “In the very near future, our young students will become journalists and begin to shift our discourse and perceptions in areas of inequality, race and crime from the present ‘white gaze’ to one that is diverse and truly reflective of the entire population.”

She added that the program can “create a climate where journalists of color will feel that they belong and that they have the ability to influence change, help make decisions, and ensure that the gaze has shifted to reflect our diverse world.”

Kody Stoebig, steering committee member.

Kody Stoebig, program manager for The kNOw Youth Media, said those involved in the program are committed to using their expertise to help “create a strong foundation of dedicated reporters who are passionate about telling the stories of their communities.” Because this program seeks out youth of color, specifically Black youth, it will have a major impact in our community.

“The kNOw is thrilled to be able to help launch this program and support it with the knowledge and experience that 14 years of youth storytelling has given us,” Stoebig said.

Tim Haydock, director of communications for the Youth Leadership Institute, said the program is exciting because of the partnerships that are making it possible, including Fresno City College, Fresno State, some of Fresno’s top journalists and Youth Leadership Institute’s The kNOw Youth Media program.

Tim Haydock, steering committee member.

“These are established and trusted partners in the community that will make sure that the students in the program succeed,” he said. “Fresno is in desperate need of more voices that will ensure that all residents in Fresno have the chance to thrive through opportunity and equity and this program is an important part in making that happen.”

Dr. Carole Goldsmith, president of Fresno City College, has offered technology help to the program, including loaning laptops to the first cohort of students.

“We are so honored of the journalism department at Fresno City College and specifically proud of Kathleen Schock, our journalism instructor, for partnering with The kNOw Youth Media, the Institute for Media and Public Trust and Fresno State’s Media, Communications and Journalism Department.” Goldsmith said. “Kathleen has been a champion for young journalists of color and we are proud of her efforts to expand and improve diversity in journalism and improve student success.   This project is a wonderful opportunity for our students and our community. This type of work helps improve our interactions with one another and advances the goals of the college.”

Betsy Hays, who chairs the MCJ Department at Fresno State, said her faculty and staff are thrilled to be part of this innovative program, and to be among the community partners helping to improve the diversity of Valley newsrooms.

“Our outstanding faculty in the MCJ Department is looking forward to helping these budding journalists and teaching them about how they can contribute to this extremely important and revered profession,” Hays said. “A thriving democracy depends on each new generation of journalists carrying the torch of ethics and excellence in the field.”

Dr. Bradley Hart, steering committee member.

The program’s steering meeting includes Dr. Bradley Hart, associate professor in Fresno State’s MCJ Department; Kody Stoebig, program manager for The kNOw Youth Media; Tim Haydock, director of communications for the Youth Leadership Institute; Dr. Kathleen Schock, journalism instructor at Fresno City College and host of Valley Edition on Valley Public Radio; Dr. Dympna Ugwu-Oju, editor of the Fresnoland Lab at The Fresno Bee, and Jim Boren, executive director of the Institute for Media and Public Trust and a journalism lecturer at Fresno State.

Jim Boren, steering committee member.

The program’s initial funding is coming through grants from the James. B. McClatchy Foundation and the California Endowment, and from a contribution from the Institute for Media and Public Trust.

“Young people, especially young people of color, have a voice and perspective that need to be expressed,” said Priscilla Enriquez, Chief Executive Officer of the James. B. McClatchy Foundation. “There is no better way than to channel that through journalism because its future depends on the next generation. JBMF is proud to support the Central Valley Journalists of Color program at the Institute for Media and Public Trust to develop, mentor, and unleash the power of emerging journalists of color.”

The Institute and its partner organizations are especially grateful to the generous support from the James B. McClatchy Foundation and The California Endowment. They were the first to step up, and we hope other philanthropic organizations will follow their lead and also help fund this project.

To contribute to this program online, go to this link:

It is Fresno State’s secure, online donation form. This part is crucial to make sure your donation goes to the correct account. Enter the desired amount, then check “Other” and write in “Institute for Media & Public Trust” and follow the remaining instructions. Let us know if you have any issues in making the online form work.

To send a check, make it out to the Fresno State Foundation. In the memo line, designate the donation is for the Institute for Media and Public Trust. Mail checks to College of Arts & Humanities at Fresno State, Development Office, 2380 E. Keats Ave. M/S MB99, Fresno, CA 93740-8024.