Lively discussions focused on diversity in campus media organizations — specifically at predominately white institutions —filled the room at the “Campus Media Diversity: How to Make Coverage and Staffing More Inclusive” panel Saturday at the Society of Professional Journalists conference.
Panel moderators Gary Westick, the business, race and culture editor at The Tennessean, Sandra Jones, WTOP-FM news anchor and reporter, and University of Utah professor Marcie Young Cancio, encouraged students and professors from universities across the country to share their thoughts about how to foster diversity in their campus newsrooms.
Rather than having a typical presentation about diversity, the moderators encouraged attendees to break off into groups. The overarching goal of the session was for attendees to share their own experiences and challenges as they try to create a space for diverse storytelling, according to Young Cancio.
“We’ve got Californians, New York here, and lots of areas represented in between,” Young Cancio said. “So, I would really like to take this as an opportunity to maybe come up with some example scenarios and to talk about what you have experienced from each other.”
If campus newsrooms are going to commit to diversity, they should do it because it matters, Westick said. But it’s not an easy road, he said, and students and university faculty alike have to think outside of the box because building a space that welcomes diversity takes time.
Young Cancio posed three questions to attendees:
–What does diversity mean to you within a campus newsroom?
–How do you think your campus news organization should be approaching diversity?
–What sort of steps or conversations have you had to start working towards that already?
Attendee Riley Hodder, a senior editor for University of Michigan’s independent newspaper The Michigan Daily, shared examples of how her publication has created a diverse space in their coverage.
“We found that we couldn’t wait for the university to enact the policies and the changes that we wanted,” Hodder said. “We had to work on that on our own and create that change at our level before because we understood that it was important.”
The Michigan Daily created a section where students of color can write about their experiences on campus called “Mich in Color,” according to Hodder. Two years ago, the student publication also established a Culture, Training and Inclusion section that is devoted to increasing diversity across all sections of the publication.
Hodder said the initiatives have garnered positive responses and progress.
Following the breakout discussions, groups went around and shared key takeaways from their conversations. They discussed how to incorporate conservative voices into their coverage without creating harm, while others shared ideas on how to encourage student journalists to find a wide range of sources.
To close out the session, Young Cancio advised the student attendees to lean into the idea of collaboration to support diverse voices rather than just covering the communities.
“Create a plan, an actual plan. Not just ideas of what you could do but formalize,” she said.