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Diversity goals fall short says SPJ

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Revised goals set by newspaper editors for employing ethnic minorities fall far short of the need, said delegates to the Society of Professional Journalists’ 1998 National Convention in Los Angeles, who pledged to take action to help speed up the timetable.

The Society endorsed key elements of the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Oct. 20 Statement on Diversity, including the influential group’s commitment to develop an action plan and to set three-year benchmarks to ensure progress toward reflecting all segments of the U.S. population in the news. But in a convention-wide resolution responding to the ASNE statement, delegates declared it unacceptable to wait another quarter century to achieve truly diverse newsrooms and news products.

“We cannot wait for another generation to pass before reflecting the communities that we cover in our own newsrooms,” said Wendy S. Myers, president of the society and editor of Veterinary Economics magazine in Lenexa, Kan. “Quality news coverage and the long-term survival of the media requires proactive solutions and broad-based problem-solving activities in this area now.”

The resolution aimed to express the concern of SPJ members and a commitment by the organization to do its part with specific action, Myers said. SPJ, which already holds diversity as a core element of its mission statement, will focus on strategies to improve professional education, newsroom environments, opportunities for advancement, and other elements necessary to managing for diversity, she said.

“The lack of a variety of perspectives in newsrooms and news content hurts our ability to be accurate and fair, and so undermines our credibility. At root, it weakens the relevancy of journalism to informed democratic debate,” said Sally Lehrman, chair of SPJ’s national diversity committee and a free-lance magazine writer on medical technology and health policy.

The resolution concluded, “Media organizations must redouble their efforts now to cover the rich diversity of American society and to improve recruitment, hiring and retention of diverse staffs. To help lead the way, the Society pledges to hold problem-solving sessions at the local and regional levels and commits itself to hold sessions at each annual convention to address diversity problems, seek solutions and disseminate those solutions to media organizations.”

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