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– Diversity Committee: Looking ahead to the coming year

Diversity Committee
On both chapter and national levels, SPJ provides an open forum for the discussion of diversity issues in journalism. This committee's purpose is to promote a broader voice in newsrooms across the country and expand the depth and quality of news reports through better sourcing. Its ongoing project is the compilation of experts — primarily women, gays and lesbians, people of color and people with disabilities — through the Society's Diversity Source Book. The Society's relevance to its member is based on inclusiveness.

Home > Diversity > Diversity Toolbox > Chapter Diversity Program in a Box

Diversity Toolbox
Chapter Diversity Program in a Box

SPJ is committed to expanding the range of voices and perspectives incorporated in the news. It is at the core of our mission to promote quality, integrity, fairness, accuracy and thoroughness in reporting. Your chapter can contribute by helping to build the Rainbow Source Book.


Why is this project important?

— To improve news coverage of ethnic and other minority communities, making it more inclusive and accurate.
— To include a breadth of sources in ALL areas of the news.
— To build trust in the mainstream media, connect with the readers/audience, and help avoid representing people in stereotypical and primarily negative ways.

How to complete this project

All professional and student SPJ chapters are required to complete one diversity program for the year. Gathering sources for the SPJ Rainbow Rolodex can serve as that project.

— Use the sample flier to spark interest among chapter members and to give general background on the project.
— Gather sources who are experts in key news areas and members of underrepresented groups. (see Finding Sources At The Local Level)
— Ask chapter members to enter the sources into the online database using the form provided. Or, you can create printed forms.
— In addition to gathering sources, consider designing a program on how to develop better sources and/or how to report on communities other than your own. Invite speakers from different communities and/or journalists who’ve had experience reporting about various communities.
— If you have any questions about this project, please contact Sally Lehrman, national diversity chair, at slehrman(at)bestwrit.com or call 650-728-8211.

Why we need your help

— Your efforts are crucial to the expansion of this national sourcebook. As a journalist and member of SPJ, you have the connections to your local community that the project hopes to reflect.
— Your help in gathering sources will move the project along quickly. As a reporter or editor committed to accuracy and fair representation, ultimately, the sourcebook will help you.

Use the information below to answer questions about the project

What: Local sources to add to the SPJ National Rainbow Source Book. This is our database of qualified experts on key news topics, organized by subject area and updated regularly.
Who: Focus on people of color, women, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities and people with links to the poor and disenfranchised; in general, those who are historically underrepresented in the news. Sources should be experts in targeted subject areas such as health, technology and transportation.
Why: Our source book is a valuable reference for journalists who want to improve the accuracy and quality of reporting by broadening the perspectives and voices represented in the media. Your local sources will further link underrepresented communities and readers to the mainstream media.
How: Gather sources from reporters, your community, and professional organizations and universities.

Finding sources at the local level

We are seeking sources from or knowledgeable about groups who are historically underrepresented in the media. These include ethnic or religious minorities, women, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities and people who have close ties to the poor and disenfranchised.

— Seek out prominent faculty from your local university who are experts in their field and who belong to one or more of the groups targeted above.
— Call the community organizations in your area and talk to the directors about this project. Enlist their help in culling sources in their community. (The sourcebook, however, is not a list of organizations and their directors. Our goal is to reach out into the community for people who have expertise in certain news areas in order to maintain credibility.)
— Sift through your Rolodex for sources you have used in the past who fit the criteria for this project.
— Brainstorm with other professionals and/or students. Convince chapter members and other journalists to share a few of their reliable sources. (Reassure them that they can keep their top-tier sources to themselves. We just need a few good names and numbers from everyone.)
— Review ethnic and community media in your area for leads.
— Use your own knowledge about who is prominent in your university or community who you may not have consulted as a source but who possesses a deep understanding of certain news topics.
— Keep in mind that the goal is quality, not necessarily quantity. To make this book useful, we want names of people who are truly experts in a given field, not people who simply like to offer their opinions and comments. It’s important that you include a description of the general background of the source, including profession, position(s) held, affiliated university or organization, and past accomplishments related to a source’s area of expertise.

Tips on sourcing

— Call more than once; at least twice!
— Follow up phone calls with email, but be sure to talk to your candidate live.
— When leaving phone or email messages, set a deadline for the candidate to return your call.
— Ask your candidate for more names and check his or her organization’s web site for interesting links.
— Set goals for number of sources gathered.

Rainbow Source Book Style

Please use AP style with these particulars:

— Downstyle on titles unless they’re immediately in front of the person’s name
— Periods in Ph.D.
— Commas and periods in Washington, D.C.
— Parentheses for area codes
— Postal abbreviations for states
— Mixture of phrases and complete sentences in general background are okay
— Separate complex lists such as those in general background with semi-colons, but don’t be afraid to break overwhelming lists into a couple of easier-to-read sentences
— Say it with brevity
— Don’t repeat info. If it says Ph.D. under advanced degrees, no need to start general background with ”So-and-So, Ph.D., is a …”
— No courtesy titles
— When listing American Indians, please name the source’s tribe in the general background section.

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