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New SPJ resource available for diversifying news content


Sally Lehrman, SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, 650/728-8211 or
Al Cross, SPJ President, 502/648-8433 or

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists has launched a comprehensive Web site dedicated to improving diversity in news content. The site's central feature is The Rainbow Source Book, an online tool that makes it easy for journalists to improve news accuracy by including all segments of American society in everyday reporting.

A companion "Diversity Toolbox" provides an all-encompassing set of links to journalism diversity resources and institutions on the Web including stylebooks and training institutions. Accompanying essays offer principles and strategies for improving stories from conception through to reporting and writing.

Reporters can use the Rainbow Source Book to find fresh perspectives, discover unexpected angles, and add dimension to their stories, said Sally Lehrman, a free-lance medical writer who is SPJ’s national diversity chair and the project's developer. "Your journalism can only be as good as your sourcing, so why not work a little harder to make it better?" Lehrman said. "If you’re not checking with a breadth of sources on every kind of story, chances are you’re missing a lot."

SPJ created the Rainbow Source Book to help reporters find experts beyond the narrow demographic band they often consult. Media content studies consistently find that journalists turn to white males as experts on most topics. In a recent analysis of nightly news by the top three networks in the United States, Media Tenor, the international media monitoring firm, found that 92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed in 2001 were white, and 85 percent were male.

Seeking diversity in content is essential to SPJ’s mission of fostering excellence and high standards in reporting, said SPJ President Al Cross, political writer and columnist at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. "The first tenet of the SPJ Code of Ethics calls on us to `Seek the truth,’ and that requires searching for truths and viewpoints that may not be apparent in every newsroom," Cross said.

"An old saw in journalism is to tell both sides of a story, but that's not good enough anymore. Most stories have a lot more than two sides, which become apparent as reporters talk to a wider variety of experts and sources. This source book will help journalists better serve their readers and viewers with more complete stories," said Robert Leger, SPJ president-elect and editorial page editor of the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader.

The SPJ Rainbow Source Book features qualified experts on key news topics from populations historically underrepresented in the news: people of color, women, gays and lesbians, and people with disabilities. The online database was gathered by and for journalists with deadlines and news values in mind. The first of its kind, the resource includes biographical summaries, languages spoken, broadcast experience, contact information and other background in a simple-to-use, searchable format.

View the Source Book and tool box online at

The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the funding arm of the Society of Professional Journalists, funded the Rainbow Source Book project.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

For SPJ information, contact Julie Grimes, SPJ deputy director, at or 317/927-8000 ext. 216.


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