Monday, April 1, 2013

Fostering Diverse Newsrooms: Challenges And Best Practices

Hugo Balta, a Peruvian American with more than 20 years’ experience in media, says the recent outcry over the February/March cover of Bloomberg Business Week is one example of why newsrooms need a diversity of individuals on their staffs.


“If there had been some diverse voices in their leadership, they automatically would have looked at that cover and said we can’t do that,” Balta said.


The cover, entitled The Great American Housing Rebound, depicts outlandish caricatures of Latino and African American men and women surrounded by money inside a traditional single-family home.


“It is so mind-boggling and even difficult to know what this newsmagazine was trying to convey,” Shanna Smith, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said in a statement. “A more accurate cover would have depicted Big Bank CEOs and Wall Street moguls who provided monetary incentives to push predatory loans.”


The nation’s 53 million Hispanics compromise 17% of the U.S. population, and this number will increase steadily for some time to come.


The record number of Latinos who cast ballots in the presidential election last year further underscores the importance of filling our newsrooms with diverse cultural perspectives in the effort to better inform coverage and story selection.


“There are too many newsrooms where the leadership — the people molding the content — are not reflective and inclusive of the Latino community,” Balta said. “They’re scratching their heads about how to reach them. If you don’t know them, you’re just going around in circles.”


Reaching Out

Like Balta, Barbara Frye, vice president of Magid’s Talent Placement Division, agrees that building diverse leadership from within starts with young journalists looking to grow in the media field.


“More stations and groups need to reach down to the high school and university levels to find promising diverse talent,” said Frye. “I also encourage stations to establish scholarship programs aimed at young minorities who show promise but don’t have the means to realize their potential.”


As Frye points out, many stations and media companies are certainly aware of the growth in the Hispanic population and want to hire individuals with multicultural backgrounds. The hurdle, Frye says, is a high demand during a time of a scarce supply.


“There are far more stations competing for minority talent than are available in a very shallow pool,” Frye said. “I believe most stations wouldn’t hesitate to increase their diversity numbers, but the supply is very limited.”


That’s why Magid’s Talent Placement Division and organizations like National Association of Hispanic Journalists are constantly looking to grow and foster young Latino journalists into future leaders in media.


“There is no strategic plan that does not include reaching out to the Latino community in business,” Balta said.


“At the end of the day, our job is to advocate the proper representation of Latinos in newsrooms,” he added. “I think that’s a resource all media companies need — diverse group of voices that have the sense to do the job and understand their community.”
Jillian Petrus
CA and Internship Coordination

For more information:
Barbara Frye: bfrye@magid.com

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