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Bridging the Border between Communities of Color and Mainstream Newspapers: Journalists Discuss Diversity Programs
Unformatted Document Text:  Bridging the Border between Communities of Color and Mainstream Newspapers 22 issue” or a minority issue. Margaret, at Knight-Ridder felt it was okay to turn to minorities to ask them questions, “but if you only turn to a minority person to discuss minority issues, then that’s not valuing the whole person.” Other minority reporters said they would rather be personally offended by the question than let the offensive story or portrayal be put into the paper and offend an entire community. A final gatekeeper of diversity at the newspapers was the minority affairs or minority issues reporters. But many of the reporters and editors were uncomfortable with this designation because they worried it meant that the newspaper did not need to incorporate minority issues into the mainstream sections of the newspaper. In some cases, the minority affairs reporter would not be consulted about a story even if the story were about a minority community if the story’s reporter did not think it was a ‘minority issue’. As Edward at the Gannett paper said, "Everyone should be a diversity reporter; you shouldn't just have to have ‘a’ diversity reporter.” The editor of the Knight-Ridder paper, Louise, also felt strongly that “it’s not just the job of the minority affairs reporter to make the newspaper diverse.” We spoke with several reporters who had been or were now ‘minority affairs reporters’ and all saw their role as being broader than only covering minority issues. They also expressed frustration at not being asked or consulted on issues they thought they might have been able to help. The minority affairs reporter at the Hearst newspaper was a Hispanic female (Sheila) and her beat was to find stories on women’s issues, poverty issues and housing. In some ways, Sheila felt that having a minority issues reporter was demeaning. It allowed the newspaper to fall into the trap of having only her write about or pay attention to minority issues. That sometimes meant that other reporters were released from having to cover those issues. Summary and Conclusions There were several critical issues that influenced the practice of diversity at these four newspapers. Through our interviews, we found that reporters felt that making

Authors: Johnston, Anne. and Flamiano, Dolores.
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Bridging the Border between Communities of Color and Mainstream Newspapers
22
issue” or a minority issue. Margaret, at Knight-Ridder felt it was okay to turn to
minorities to ask them questions, “but if you only turn to a minority person to discuss
minority issues, then that’s not valuing the whole person.” Other minority reporters said
they would rather be personally offended by the question than let the offensive story or
portrayal be put into the paper and offend an entire community.
A final gatekeeper of diversity at the newspapers was the minority affairs or
minority issues reporters. But many of the reporters and editors were uncomfortable with
this designation because they worried it meant that the newspaper did not need to
incorporate minority issues into the mainstream sections of the newspaper. In some
cases, the minority affairs reporter would not be consulted about a story even if the story
were about a minority community if the story’s reporter did not think it was a ‘minority
issue’. As Edward at the Gannett paper said, "Everyone should be a diversity reporter;
you shouldn't just have to have ‘a’ diversity reporter.” The editor of the Knight-Ridder
paper, Louise, also felt strongly that “it’s not just the job of the minority affairs reporter to
make the newspaper diverse.”
We spoke with several reporters who had been or were now ‘minority affairs
reporters’ and all saw their role as being broader than only covering minority issues.
They also expressed frustration at not being asked or consulted on issues they thought
they might have been able to help. The minority affairs reporter at the Hearst newspaper
was a Hispanic female (Sheila) and her beat was to find stories on women’s issues,
poverty issues and housing. In some ways, Sheila felt that having a minority issues
reporter was demeaning. It allowed the newspaper to fall into the trap of having only her
write about or pay attention to minority issues. That sometimes meant that other reporters
were released from having to cover those issues.
Summary and Conclusions
There were several critical issues that influenced the practice of diversity at these
four newspapers. Through our interviews, we found that reporters felt that making


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