Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In Search of Credibility : News Organizations Take a 'Time-Out for Diversity'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

In Search of Credibility : News Organizations Take a 'Time-Out for Diversity'

Article excerpt

In an effort to rebuild credibility with a skeptical public, journalists at 200 of the nation's newspapers examined whether their news coverage accurately reflects the communities they serve.

As part of a campaign to promote diversity in news columns, "The National Time-Out" in mid-May was designed to ensure that different voices and viewpoints become part of the reporting process.

Participating newspapers and news organizations used several methods to let newsroom staffers discuss how race and ethnicity figure in deciding which stories to cover, who will cover stories, and where stories are played in the newspaper. The program, announced in March, is a top priority of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME).

Participants were asked to fill out a survey describing the discussions. The findings will be released at Unity '99, a conference of minority journalists in Seattle in July, and at APME's annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., in October.

Pam Johnson, executive editor of The Arizona Republic in Phoenix and president of APME, says she was pleased by the number of newspapers taking part in the voluntary program.

While ASNE has pushed to increase minority representation in the newsroom through the hiring of more reporters and editors, this project comes at diversity from a content perspective, linking diversity in news coverage to more accurate reporting.

Newspapers taking part in the project included The Oregonian in Portland, Ore., the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., the Iowa City Press-Citizen in Iowa, and The Detroit News.

Some newspapers, such as the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, conducted a mini-diversity audit of their newspapers. The AP bureau in Columbus, Ohio, created a diversity intranet, and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis had minority leaders discuss the fairness of coverage. Reporters and editors at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., got an update on diversity efforts at the paper and then broke up into small groups to discuss how the paper has handled the issue.

As news organizations discussed diversity and how it relates to news coverage, the issue went beyond race to such topics as age, sexual orientation, and even class status. Some newspapers conducted the sessions in one day; others spread them out over a few days. …

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