Goal of Diversity Means More Than Superficial Recognition

By Brown, Fred | The Quill, April 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

Goal of Diversity Means More Than Superficial Recognition


Brown, Fred, The Quill


One of my favorite expert sources is a person named Waverly Person.

Dr. Waverly J. Person is an earthquake expert. Virtually anytime there's a big earthquake anywhere in the world, especially if it's in the United States, Waverly Person is on television and in the newspapers, talking about the temblor's origin, its magnitude, the aftershocks, all those earth-shaking things.

Person is chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado. He is particularly appealing as a source for two reasons.

One reason is that his name describes his job-occupational onomatopoeia. The other reason is that he's an AfricanAmerican, which illustrates an aspect of diversity that sometimes is forgotten.

Diversity is more than just representative skin tones in the newsroom.

There's no question that a diverse workforce is a goal earnestly to be sought and one that journalism hasn't always given the priority it deserves. A newsroom staffed with a variety of people provides a variety of perspectives to editors and managers who are accustomed to majority thinking.

But it's also important to use minorities as sources for stories that have nothing in particular to do with minority issues.

As reporters, we tend to seek out minorities to comment on problems such as discrimination in home loans, or assaults on gays, or police brutality, or ethnic gang warfare-all pretty negative stories contributing to the notion that all minority issues are problems.

But we should also keep in mind that we may have overlooked minorities who are experts on the stock market, or solar energy, or food safety, or theoretical physics.

To look for information and quotations from women or gays or people of color only when we're writing stories about minorities is to perpetuate stereotypes. They don't have to be expert sources, either; we should also strive for diversity when we're trying to figure out what Mr. and Ms. America think.

The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, as it often does, offers some useful wisdom to journalists who want to do the right thing on the question of diversity. …

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