The News Leaders Association has been surveying newsrooms for more than 40 years to determine how many journalists of color are gathering and reporting news across the country. But in recent years, most newsrooms stopped reporting their diversity numbers. These are the same newsrooms, by the way, that preach diversity and transparency for other professions.
The NLA, formerly the American Society of News Editors, sought to have 2,500 news organizations participate in the diversity survey, but only 303 completed it, according to reporting from the Nieman Lab. That story set off a huge reaction in the journalism community.
Now a number of journalism groups have offered a proposal that should encourage newsrooms to fill out the diversity survey. In an open letter to Pulitzer Administrator Marjorie Miller, the groups want the Pulitzer organizers to only accept nominations from news organizations that have completed the diversity survey. (The Institute for Media and Public Trust has signed the letter to the Pulitzer administrator).
Barring newsrooms from competing for a Pulitzer Prize just might be the key to getting news leaders to fill out the survey. This is the top award in journalism, and newsrooms both large and small submit nominations each year.
At the Institute for Media and Public Trust, we have been highly critical of newsrooms for ignoring the survey, and we called them out in this blog post more than a year ago. We said this at the time: “We believe that America’s newsrooms should reflect the diversity of the communities they cover.” That’s one of the reasons that we are sponsoring a journalism training program for students of color.
We must have journalists who can reflect the voices of the entire community, and not just the voices that have been the traditional ones that media outlets have sought out. How many stories have news sites missed over the years because their newsrooms did not reflect the diversity of their communities?
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. We have funding from the California Endowment, the James B. McClatchy Foundation, Microsoft and individual donors to our Institute for Media and Public Trust.
We have early commitments from several Valley news leaders to hire qualified students who have completed our five-year paid journalism program. Each student will be paid a stipend of $300 a month for the academic year to participate in the program, which also includes academic counseling and mentoring. Students can stay in the program for five years as they move through their college journalism education.
We are taking applications for our second group of students now. They should be high school seniors in the fall, and they will begin their training when the school year begins. Students don’t have to be in a high school journalism program to apply. Applicants can go to this link to be considered for the program.