Designing a Model Program for Minority Students

By Rawitch, Cynthia Z. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

Designing a Model Program for Minority Students


Rawitch, Cynthia Z., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


In light of ongoing attempts to dismantle affirmative action programs nationwide, the results of recent research into designing a model journalism program for minority students could prove to be both enlightening and helpful. The panel of experts who designed the model strongly favored components that foster integration and growth for all students, and were least supportive of set-asides and minority-only programming. Even so, as the data show, few of the experts were comfortable with eliminating minority-only programming.

The experts gave their strongest approval to those elements and activities that:

* help to create a less hostile university climate and promote a multicultural environment

* better integrate minority students into university life

* increase involvement of minority and white faculty with minority students inside and outside of the classroom

* concentrate on practical experience for all students on campus media, while improving the climate and content of those media

* facilitate the financial and personal participation of professional media.

Perhaps as important, the panelists agreed that:

* minority-only components should not be emphasized because they tend to segregate students

* racial/ethnic criteria for participation in special activities should be eliminated

* there can be negative results for minority students from minority-only programming.

As a result, the finished model fails to show strong support for set-asides except in the critical area of financial support.

Background

In 1965, when Watts erupted in rioting, the Los Angeles Times briefly "promoted" a classified ad messenger to reporter because there wasn't a single black journalist in the newsroom (Letofsky, 1990). In 1968, when a murder suspect escaped into Mexico, a Los Angeles Times switchboard operator translated a telephone conversation with Mexican police because there were no bilingual journalists (Rawitch, 1985).(1)

These were not isolated instances. In that same year (1968), the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (Kerner Commission) castigated the American news media for their contributions to the violence in Newark, NJ and Detroit, noting that "the media report and write from a standpoint of a white man's world" (p. 366). Among the conclusions in the Commission's chapter on the media: "The journalistic profession has been shockingly backward in seeking out, hiring, training, and promoting Negroes" (p. 384).

A decade after the Kerner report, in 1978, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) announced a goal: By the year 2000, the employment of minorities in newsrooms should "be equivalent to the percentage of minority persons within the national population"--at that time, about 17 percent. What ASNE called for--and described as fair and attainable--was a 13 percent increase over 22 years (ASNE, 1984).

That goal remains remote. While minority employment on daily newspapers has increased 6.9 percent, from 4 percent in 1978 to 10.9 percent in 1994 (Jennings, 1995; Garneau, 1990; Rosenfeld, 1988), minorities now constitute approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population. In addition, 45.8 percent of the 1,492 daily newspapers have no minorities in their newsrooms (Jennings, 1995). Data from broadcast journalism and public relations reflect similar findings.

The media look to find minority staff members among journalism school graduates, but the picture in journalism education is not encouraging. An annual survey, taken primarily to count the number and distribution of all journalism students, shows that minorities represented 22 percent of the total number of journalism majors reported in 1993 (15,415 minority undergraduates in a total enrollment of 71,250), at the 241 programs that responded with racial/ethnic data. Of those, 13.5 percent were African American, 5.5 percent Hispanic-American, 2. …

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