Top Editors Talk Diversity — Or The Lack Of It — In Newsrooms

August 15, 2014  |  

With all the talk about the lack of diversity in America’s newsrooms, the Buzzfeed went straight to the source for a unique  survey in which they flat-out asked top editors about diversity in their newsrooms. They actually reached out to 33 publications and got responses from only 13, including BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith and the editors of The Guardian, The New York Observer, Politico, New York Magazine, Vice, The New Republic, Vox, the Washington Post, Slate, ThinkProgress, The New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times.

It was the second part of a two-part series, the first of which focused on journalists of color. For this part they posed six questions, here are some of the insightful responses.

For the first question, they were asked to define “diversity.” For many, diversity was a broad term, not just a racial quotient.

“In an editorial capacity, I consider ‘diversity’ to mean being very mindful of hiring editors and reporters with varied backgrounds and experiences. But the goal of this isn’t to ensure political correctness; rather, it is to ensure that the breadth of backgrounds and experiences of your readers are represented as fairly as possible,” said Rocco Castoro, Editor-in-Chief, Vice.

Added Annie Augustine, director of communication and several editors at The New Republic, “A diverse newsroom is inclusive not just of racial and ethnic minorities, but also of women, gays and lesbians, and people from various socioeconomic backgrounds.”

There were a variety of responses for the question about metrics to measure newsroom diversity, with digital editorial director Ben Williams plainly admitting the site doesn’t. Still, the site says that diversity is a consideration with each hire. The New Republic says it will be going to the Asian American Journalists Association convention and the National Association of Black Journalists conventions to gain greater insight.

When Slate tried to reach out to create more diversity, they realized they needed to re-examine their method of recruitment. “At one meeting on the subject, the staffers present went around the room and explained how they’d come to Slate. Of those present, all of the white staffers had found out about their positions through their networks: friends, connections, forwarded email listings. All of the people of color had seen a public listing posted on our site, a job board, or social media. That was striking to us, and has caused us to rethink how we are writing job listings and where we are posting them,” recalled Julia Turner, Editor-in-Chief, Slate.

Another barrier is the lack of experience among the talent pool.

“It’s well-established that, in part due to economic reasons, not enough ‘diverse’ candidates enter journalism on the ground floor to begin with. So the biggest factor in improving newsroom diversity is getting more non-white male employees into the profession to begin with,” pinpointed Williams.

The survey wraps with a couple of suggestions for how diverse candidates can jump start a journalism career.

“This applies to journalists of all backgrounds, but: Ask people out to coffee, or strike up relationships on social media. Most hiring editors are delighted to get to know talented journalists and keep them in mind for future openings. Also, pitch the publications you love. That’s often a meaningful way of establishing a relationship with writers and editors there. Finally, I’d say, if you do land at a place you really like, a place that appreciates your talents, stick with it and work your way up the ranks,” said Turner.

According to Buzzfeed, some of the editors a statement instead of answering the questions. And they did not get did responses from Complex, the Huffington Post, Mashable, Bloomberg Businessweek, Gawker Media, Vogue, Teen Vogue, The Awl, TechCrunch, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Pitchfork, Variety, 538, the New York Post, Grantland, GQ, Business Insider, the Wall Street Journal, or The Atlantic.

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