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SPJ has launched a comprehensive Web site dedicated to improving diversity in news content. The site's central feature is The Rainbow Sourcebook, 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 Sourcebook to find fresh perspectives, discover unexpected angles, and add dimension to their stories, said Sally Lehrman, a freelance medical writer and chairwoman of SPJ's Diversity Committee.
"Your journalism can only be as good as your sourcing, so why not work a little harder to make it better?" said Lehrman, who developed the resource. "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 sourcebook 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.
The SPJ Rainbow Sourcebook 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 Sourcebook online at http://www.spj.org/diversity.asp.
The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the educational and fund-raising arm of SPJ, funded the Rainbow Sourcebook project.