Diversity of views, not race, important

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As I continue to learn more about journalism in school and in life, I always hear about the issue of racial diversity in this business.

It seems to me that the topic has been talked about and analyzed in every field of journalism – television, newspaper, radio, etc. Organizations like the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Poynter Institute and UNITY: Journalists of Color Inc., along with several other organizations, have all rallied behind racial diversity in the newsroom.

For them, racial diversity in the world of journalism is a must.

In newspapers alone, the ASNE reported that the percentage of minority journalists went slightly up in 2004 to 13.42 percent. News of the slight rise is not great, but at least it has gone up, especially in an industry that often cuts jobs.

As a journalist who happens to be black, I would love to see more “people of color” – and also more women since they also tie into diversity – in every field of journalism. But too often, however, I think several people in this business focus mainly on race when it comes to diversity, which to me is not the best way to achieve real diversity.

Several of us – not all – have to not only look at race, but we should also focus on having journalists, news directors, producers, editors, big-time executives, etc., who are diverse in their ideology and culture.

Some advocates say that a more racially diverse newsroom leads to more accurate and better news coverage. They say this mainly because they believe the person – black, white, Latino, or whoever – will bring a different perspective to a news organization. Furthermore, advocates say a news organization, especially one located in an area with a racially diverse population, needs to reflect its community.

For example, an all-white newsroom in Los Angeles would not be good and definitely needs to have more diversity.

Diversifying a newsroom, some organizations say, will bring different aspects of reporting to the community because that person is of a different race, and it is necessary since the minority population in the United States continues to grow.

I am a big fan of diversity, but advocacy of this type, however, leaves out some important things we should think about.

If a Latino journalist grows up in an environment where he or she is not informed about his or her culture, that person will have a very hard time reporting on the Latino community, even though he or she racially reflects it. Latino journalists, and any journalist of any race, encompass a wide spectrum of beliefs and ideas.

A black journalist who is hired at a non-diverse news organization can have a mainstream, corporate “white-America” view of the world, which would not be very beneficial to the organization.

On the other hand, a Latino journalist can learn and absorb him or herself in the black community and do as good a job in coverage as some think a black journalist would do, and the same vice versa.

So finding qualified minorities who are diverse not only in how they look but looking at how they think serves the purpose of striving for diversity in all fields of journalism.

A race does not guarantee valuable and different coverage of the community a person racially reflects.

I wished I lived in a United States where race did not play such a key role in how people make decisions. Life would be a little less complicated.

But that is just wishful thinking.

Now is the time for several of us in journalism to hone in on racial diversity. It is time to turn these ideas into action.

That would be nice.

Sam Richard can be reachd at samuel.richard@csun.edu.