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New president seeking greater diversity

By Billy O'Keefe

By Amanda Dolasinski
SPJ President Kevin Z. Smith wants to see stronger efforts to attract minority journalists to the society.
He met with the Diversity Committee Friday and told members he would like them to pick a project that helps recruit members of all ethnicities.
“It’s absolutely vital that we do something,” he said. “We ignore diversity far too much.”
SPJ does not keep statistics on membership or convention attendees by race or ethnicity, but based on attendees he’s seeing, the makeup of attendees this year is typical — not many minorities.
Diversity Committee Chair Pueng Vongs said she was a little disappointed no program was focused on diversity issues this year. She said the rate at which minority journalists are losing jobs is the biggest issue the committee wants to tackle.
“We’re working with (minority journalists’) groups to provide training for their members to improve their skills,” she said, “because we think that you need diversity in the newsroom to reflect the issues of a growing, diverse population.”
New SPJ member Reginald Ragland, media liaison and the Washington, D.C., director of the Journalism Education Association, works to put journalism programs in U.S. middle and high schools. He is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and attended its national conference in Tampa a few weeks ago.
After seeing students of color attending SPJ informational sessions and accepting awards, he was impressed with SPJ’s efforts.
“I see they planted the seeds in college students. That’s pretty essential,” he said. “The outreach is good.”
Donna Rogers never felt compelled to join SPJ because she didn’t know that the organization could offer her professional benefits but now is looking forward to seeing the society’s efforts to recruit more minorities.
The South Bend Tribune online editor said she has seen more diverse faces at the convention this year but is disappointed most are students.
“As far as professionals go, they could do a lot better,” she said.
Rogers is a member of SPJ and the National Association of Multicultural Media Executives and a past member of NABJ.
Seraphina Lin, who just completed graduate studies at Northwestern University, said she is one of few Asians at the convention this year. She doesn’t, however, feel unwelcome. Instead, she said she’s focused on learning as much about the journalism industry as possible.