Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Flipping the script on newsroom equity

25 November 2020

The newsroom has long been extolled as a place that pioneers social change — and speaks truth to power.

My colleagues and I continued this tradition by talking to well-respected journalists about how their own profession is handling the challenges of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. 

In the process, my team of three broke with the status quo often found in newsrooms across the United States. I served on the team as the only white, American male. Not to mention that I enrolled in Global Journalist, a class full of aspiring journalists, with little intention on becoming one.

Meet the team

For this project, my female colleagues, both from China, had the trade-craft knowledge and experience necessary to bring this story to fruition. This unique composition added depth to the story and proved beneficial speaking to the advancement of women journalists.

During my recent time as an undergraduate, I interned at the U.S. State Department. This experience instilled in a me a greater appreciation for press freedom, so I decided to challenge myself and enroll in a journalism course for the first time ever at the beginning of my graduate studies. It quickly became clear to me that journalists have tenacity, especially those who did not have quite the same spotlight as others. 

To my astonishment, even with my lack of journalistic experience, my team completed our story ahead of fellow peers in the class. I credit my team’s ability to thoroughly and cohesively collaborate for this success. We had a lot to learn from each other and backgrounds that made us better able to connect to the story. On individual instances where one of us fell short, one came to the aid of the other. Prior to this story, I had never recorded myself interviewing anyone. These interviews challenged me more than I expected. I tripped over words, misstated a few facts, and at some points probably confused the interviewee altogether. My experienced colleagues offered their support and helped me navigate these discussions. Eventually I got better because of their help.

Read more: How women journalists are fighting for equity in newsrooms across the globe

Throughout the interviews and the, sometimes awkward, voice recordings, I realized how diversity affects what comes out of the newsroom. The countless testimonies given by our highly reputable guests make it clear. Newsrooms stand to gain from listening to more voices and adding more perspectives. Leaders should not limit this advice to only the newsroom. The news facilitates conversations between people from all walks of life, but other professions could heed these lessons to improve their own output. At the end of the day, the newsroom is a workplace. It has individuals who may share lived experience or that may differ. Diversity provides skillsets which all work settings, government through private sector, can stand to uphold and strive for.

Of course, my role does not rise to the struggle on the broader scale that women and journalists of color face in most given circumstances. However, I still found myself facing the daunting task of trying to provide substantive products for my team. They welcomed me with great patience and mentorship. Suddenly, I found myself relating a little bit more to the women in our story. So much so that when my team interviewed a top male editor of our college town’s local newspaper, I found myself fervently advocating for women in the workplace. 

Often people describe the press as the “canary in the coal mine” for liberal democracies. So maybe it’s no surprise that newsrooms are also struggling with race and gender issues. In a time when so many believe that movements such as the #MeToo are led by the media, we discover that these movements lead the media, and help shape it into an institution that is more attuned with its audience.

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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