The Move toward Pluralism in Journalism and Mass Communication Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

More than three decades after the 1968 Kerner Commission focused an eye-opening lens on issues of diversity in American journalism, news organizations and journalism educators are examining the results of their efforts to achieve the greater inclusivity called for in that report. The movement toward pluralizing journalism education arose not only from the Kerner Commission, but also from resolutions adopted in 1978 by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (then called AEJ). University journalism programs found a further incentive to change when the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) adopted Standard 12, focused on multiculturalism, in 1984.

The purpose of this study is to survey diversity research in journalism and mass communication education. The central research question is: What do current studies tell about diversity in journalism and mass communication education? This study examines student admissions and retention, faculty and administration hiring and retention, and curriculum. It explores the historical context of diversity efforts in journalism and mass communication education and also seeks to discern what the current research and data reveal within the context of methodological limitations.

The Methodology

It is important to discuss the methodological problems related to this kind of evaluation. Despite diversity's impact in the academy and beyond, defining diversity remains a significant hurdle. Chance, Wergold and Hon find that there has been little attempt to ascertain exactly what is meant by the term diversity or to determine whether individuals who use the term are talking about the same thing. They report that because policies and procedures of affirmative action have evolved over the past thirty years, it is likely that those using the same term are thinking about very different goals and objectives.

Valenzuela 2 finds that journalism students perceive diversity almost purely in terms of race. Chow, Eastman, Everett and Dates 3 indicate that at Indiana University definitions of minority student populations are rewritten to some degree every time the nation conducts a census. They find:

Typically, the definition of minority groups contains the five categories of AfricanAmericans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. In some places, "blacks" may exclude African nationals. "Hispanics" may mean only HispanicAmericans, and "Asians" may mean only Asian Americans. In other locations, a minority may be a foreign-national (such as a Kenyan, Costa Rican, or Korean). The definition may specifically include Eastern Europeans. It may include Alaskan Natives as a separate category. In recent years, disabled people and Vietnam veterans have been added to the same lists of "protected groups," and at some colleges and universities, sexual orientation, age and other variables are considered affirmatively."

The same concerns are raised when attempts are made to define the word "multiculturalism." Cohen, Lombard and Pierson4, and Dickson 5 explain multiculturalism as including people of color, ethnic backgrounds, gender distinctions, religious beliefs and other attributes that distinguish one identifiable set of people from another. Schwartz6 and ManningMiller' agree that definitions of multiculturalism should extend beyond racial and ethnic minorities and include people with disabilities. Standard 12 requires that accredited institutions "recruit, advise, retain and prepare minority students and minority and women faculty." It does not specifically mention other aspects of diversity.

Other methodological problems exist in assessing diversity. These problems include attitudes toward affirmative action and the difficulty of finding comparable populations for study. Becker and Kosicki I say of data on ethnicity and race that:

It seems possible that the number of schools willing to or able to report these data may decline in the future as the wave of anti-affirmative action sentiment continues to sweep the country and the courts. …