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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Journalism Crisis Is Racial, Not Just Financial

Amber Mobley |
February 23, 2009 | 4:58 p.m. PST


The word "crisis" is soooo in these days.

There's the economic crisis, the housing crisis, etc. But a crisis that is close to my heart is the journalism crisis.

A journalist since 8th grade, I have been keeping a close eye on the
industry even though I'm not officially a part of it any more since
beginning my master's studies here at the University of Southern

But in case you don't know, yes, the journalism industry is in a
crisis too: Newspapers are closing, journalists (many veterans of the
trade) are getting pink slips and coverage is becoming sparse.

While none of this is good (long story short; a democratic society
without a free press, to me, is far from democratic), the silent
travesty in all of this is that diversity in newsrooms - an idea that
was already a sort of endangered species - is practically extinct.

So if I may, let me borrow a quote from Joe Torres of The Detroit Free Press. As a panelist at a National Press Club event last Thursday, Torres said that the lack of diversity in media "can't be separated from the crisis in journalism."


The panel, consisting of journalists from CNN, The Chicago Tribune,
and The Nation and headed by Ed Gordon, addressed how the mainstream
(read "white") press has covered and continues to cover race.

Put on in part by UNITY, a national association of journalists of color, and theloop21.com,
a fairly new Website that puts current issues into context for people
of color, the panel was a part of an overall assessment of race and the
media. The major accompanying result is a report entitled Journalism in Color: Race & the Media in the 2008 election and beyond.

Some say if there were more colored folks in the newsroom at, say,
the New York Post, that last week's political cartoon wouldn't have
seen the light of day. I disagree. But, I see their point.

I too have been the "fly in the buttermilk"
of a majority white newsroom on many occassions. And there aren't many
things harder than trying to be THE voice of an entire race of people
in a professional situation.

Even when the seemingly simplest situations come up - such as a
Black History program at a school, a crime story in a "black" section
of town or an immigration story that white editors want to forcibly
associate with the area's Hispanic population - the stories find their
basis in stereotypes because the folks who are in charge want
them to go there and don't understand the dynamics because they don't
share color, race, relationships, experiences and socioeconomics with
the people they're covering. 

Journalistically, no one is being done any favors when the newsroom
looks nothing like the population it is supposed to be covering. That's

So while the word crisis is and has been the hot word of the past
few months, I'm shouting HALLELUJAH! that someone is finally
attributing it to the lack of journalists of color in our nation's

It's about time.

But how long until "mainstream media" begins to see this crisis as the crisis that it truly is?

Maybe UNITY and theloop21.com need to FedEx their report to editors-in-chief all across the country.



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