Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Diverse Speakers Discuss Diversity

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Diverse Speakers Discuss Diversity

Article excerpt

A variety of speakers at a recent convention discussed ways to make newspaper content more diverse and lively, with one even suggesting that "Dear Abby" appear on the front page.

Speakers at the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors meeting in Philadelphia included a newspaper columnist, a novelist, a magazine writer, an editor of a supermarket tabloid and others.

Darrell Dawsey writes a Detroit News column that focuses on black youth, hip-hop culture, politics and other subjects in a way that reflects the language and sensibility of his audience.

"I come from a different perspective because of the different perspective of my readers," said Dawsey, whose feature is syndicated by Gannett News Service.

Dawsey, 25, noted that his column has helped attract young African-American readers to the News.

"I get tons of mail from people who didn't read the News before who are not only reading me but other sections," he said. "I also have 40-year-old white people reading me. They pick up the paper to read something else and then read me."

The Wayne State University journalism graduate is a former Los Angeles Times reporter. Dawsey said that when he did a Times story mentioning Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, his editor insisted that he put the word "controversial" in front of the black Muslim minister's name. He declined, noting that the editor never had insisted that he do this in front of a white leader's name.

"Where I come from, Farrakhan is not considered controversial, Ronald Reagan is considered controversial," said Dawsey, who is on sabbatical from the News to write a Doubleday book about being a young black man in the United States.

Author Bebe Moore Campbell also talked about the importance of diversity in newspaper coverage.

"I began writing because I yearned to see my image on the printed page," she said.

One of Campbell's outlets was the Washington Post, for which she wrote features that included positive articles about the local African-American community. She said her Post editor, a white woman, realized that there were more than just "social pathology" stories in a community that comprises 70% of the city's population.

Campbell is the author of Your Blues Ain't Like Mine (Ballantine), a fictionalized account of the murder of Emmett Till, a black teen killed in the South in the 1950s after he spoke briefly to a white woman. The book tells how the murder affected the victim's and killer's families during several decades. She also has written two nonfiction books and contributed to the Los Angeles Times, New York Times Magazine, Essence, Ebony, Black Enterprise, Seventeen, Working Mother, Ms. and other publications.

It is well known that many female readers prefer magazines and books to newspapers. Nancy Woodhull, a founding USA Today editor and former Gannett News Service executive who heads her own consulting firm, discussed ways to bring these women back to newspapers.

She suggested a business-page column about home-based workers and a feature about the "juggling" that many women do to find time for work, family and themselves.

Woodhull praised the "Her Health" column by Leslie Laurence of Universal Press Syndicate and added that the just-launched New York Times Syndicate column by MTV'S Tabitha Soren could attract younger readers. …

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