Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Getting It Right

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Getting It Right

Article excerpt


Training journalists of color who had been on other career paths

We did not have a union at The Village Voice until Rupert Murdoch in 1976 bought the New York alternative weekly newspaper, which he owned until 1985. Knowing his dour views on unions, we swiftly organized ourselves and joined the catchall District 65 (since absorbed by the United Auto Workers). District 65's rank and file included clerical and factory workers, and the union asked me to teach a writing course for members who had never thought of themselves as writers.

Some of these evening-course students -- to their surprise -- turned out to be compellingly expressive chroniclers of their own experiences, on and off the job. I was reminded of the most satisfying teaching I've ever done by Michael Cass' June 24 story, "New program at VU [Vanderbilt University] trains minorities to be journalists" in The Tennessean of Nashville.

Cass told of Margaret Bailey, a pipe fitter for 20 years, whose article on an exercise class she was taking came to the attention of an editor at the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News. The editor asked her to participate in a program training local residents to write for a neighborhood news section.

Bailey went on to become a graduate of the inaugural class (June 2-Aug. 23) of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt. She is now a full-time staff writer at the Savannah Morning News.

As described in a brochure introducing its pioneer graduates and teaching staff, the Diversity Institute "is a professional fellowship for people of color who want to become daily newspaper journalists, but have not had journalism training." Institute fellows -- in the 12-week program in reporting, writing, editing, ethics, journalism history, and visual journalism -- "may be people seeking a midcareer change or recent college graduates who did not attend a school with a journalism program."

The Tennessean story also told of Roxye Arellano, 32, who went from homeless mother of three to editorial assistant and office manager for the Greeley (Colo.) Daily Tribune. After her Diversity Institute graduation last month, she was to become a community news reporter/editor for the Tribune.

Wanda S. Lloyd, executive director of the institute, was managing editor of USA Today and The Greenville (S.C.) News. She also worked at The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, the Atlanta Journal, and the Providence (R.I.) Evening Bulletin. The rest of the teaching staff also has intimate knowledge of newsrooms around the country.

Lloyd, a director of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, emphasized the advantages of recruiting reporters from minority communities in the May/June issue of the Columbia Journalism Review: "Local talent enhances the ability to be more inclusive in coverage. …

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