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Posts Tagged ‘ASNE’
07 Jan

Digital + Diversity: What does your newsroom reflect?

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NOTE: Originally ran on Online Journalism Review: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201101/1926/

If you ask a Web journalist what the newest, important tool a news organization needs to embrace today, they’d probably say Social Media. They’re right, it’s not a fad.

If you were to ask them to make a prediction or guess where the future of technology is headed, chances are they’d say mobile. Smart phones are getting smarter, smaller and cheaper. (And, one day Verizon will carry the iPhone – I believe!)

If you were to ask me what one element newsrooms need to embrace, outside of technology, my answer is a simple one: diversity. Can we make that a New Year’s resolution?

I’m not talking about being politically correct. I’m talking about having diverse experiences and points of views that shape and literally define what is news.

I believe that the lack of diversity – gender, age, religion, sexual-orientation, socioeconomic background, politics, bus riders, cyclists, video game addicts, etc. as well as ethnicity – in our newsrooms in all roles, especially leadership ones, is one of the main causes of lower circulation and loss of general reader/viewer engagement.

Again, I’m not talking about being politically correct. I’m just saying if we are not made of all our communities, how are we expected to relate and be relevant to all those communities?

Let me give you an example:
One of my early Web specials I did in my career was the 20th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. I was representing SFGate.com as I sat around the table with print reporters and editors. You have to understand, the San Francisco Chronicle was crucial in the news coverage twenty years before with the incredible work by Randy Shilts.

These people were professionals and I was still the relatively new kid working with that new medium.

But as they spoke, I noticed that all the stories were about gay, white males. No one talked about that the fastest growing HIV/AIDS demographic was straight, black females.

They were the pros. I was just a punk kid.

Staying quiet is one of my biggest regrets in my career. I swore no matter how awkward or uncomfortable, I had to always speak up.

That chair I was sitting in wasn’t just for me. It was for all the communities I was a part of… and all the others that I wasn’t, but weren’t at the table. I have to rep everyone. You know, that voiceless thing.

Here’s another example:
Do you remember when someone tried to reinstate the draft back in 2003? I was sitting at the morning news meeting as the draft talks began to heat up and we started brainstorming on how to cover the story.

In a room of incredibly talented and experienced journalists, the angles included talking to teachers, parents, Vietnam vets, recruiters … but I was shocked that well into the discussion I had to raise my hand and mention, how about talking to high schoolers?

The room forgot to include the demographic that was going to be most affected by the draft.

But the lack of diversity in newsrooms isn’t new. Women have been battling the glass ceiling for decades and studies, like the one from ASNE, have shown a depressing lack of ethic diversity for years.

So, why am I bringing it up?

Let me give you another example:
In a recent PEW study, it found that African-Americans and Latinos “are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are white internet users.”

In several not-so-recent studies, they found that Latinos are ahead of the curve in embracing mobile devices and its behavior. They are more likely to text message, download music, play games and access social networking.

Yet, how come there isn’t a reflection of that diversity in those Web journalism jobs? While there is a lack of diversity in newsrooms, why is there even more so on the Web side?

The digital divide? Sure, but not the one you are thinking. Those studies show “minorities” are on the advanced side of the divide and others are behind.

Diversity, and the possible lack there of, was raised as a concern after the recent invitation-only Newsfoo submit.

At last year’s SXSWi panel about the future of news it was all white men.

Look, I’m not saying that your ethnicity or gender or whatever is a requirement to do a better job for any of these tasks.

What I am saying is that if we don’t reflect our communities – both on- and off-line – we’re doomed. If we don’t listen to others outside of our own, individual communities we’ve missed the point of journalism.

This isn’t about hiring “us” over “them” … this is about how all off us strengthen journalism by reflecting our diverse communities through relevant coverage … and that the coverage is shaped by those that make up the newsroom.

That’s the premise of hyperlocal journalism, isn’t it? That a local or insider would know what is more relevant to their community rather than an outsider.

So, why can’t we overcome this challenge? It’s 2011.

PBS’ MediaShift recently held a Twitter chat on media diversity.

Thankfully, it’s on people’s minds again.

I routinely get asked for names of diverse candidates to apply for Web journo jobs… but here’s the thing, while I know plenty of reporters, editors photographers, etc., my network of diverse Web journos isn’t as strong as it should.

Y’all, I’m a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, board member of Online News Association, been to nearly every alphabet soup of conferences and I’m still struggling to diversify my Web journo network.

So what do we do about it? We need more solutions outside of forming another damn diversity committee.

The fact is, these diverse communities are already on the advance side of the tech divide… but they are not on the journalism side. Perhaps they aren’t aware of a journalism career as an option? Perhaps they don’t see themselves in our coverage? Perhaps they feel like there is no place at the table for them to help shape news?

Whatever it is, we need to do something. And I need some help in figuring this out.

In addition to being on the ONA board, I’m overseeing the all day workshops at the next conference, I’m co-program chair for UNITY 2012, I’m the New Media track coordinator for the NAHJ annual conference and I run #wjchat, a weekly Web journalism chat.

If we don’t invest in recruiting and training members of diverse groups to help us do and advanced journalism … we are royally screwed.

My New Year’s resolution is to harness my access and network to improve diversity across the board for Web journalism. But I need your help. I need your ideas.

More importantly, in your newsrooms, your communities (and those you are not a part of) need your help. Reach out, connect, participate, preach and downright fight to ensure your news org’s journalism reflects the diverse community it covers. Help it stay relevant.

29 Sep

I did not do this alone

Next week, I have the honor and privilege to speak to some journalism students at Cal State University, Northridge. They’ve asked me to talk about Web journalism and my career.

NOTE: This is where the journalism stops in this post.

I have to get this out… I don’t know if it’s inappropriate… or TMI… or too whatever… but here goes.

In my life and in my career, I’ve been incredibly blessed. When I stop and think about my roots, my parents, my support network… and where I currently am… a professor… a professor at USC, such a prestigious institution… it is… amazing.

But I did not do this alone.

I get reminders of that all the time… one hit me the first time I walked into this great campus’ food court. And it hit me again realizing that I am going to speak to students at CSUN.

I’m fighting back tears as I type this.

You see… at one point, my mom worked at a pizza joint on the CSUN campus to get by. I had completely forgotten about it until I was ordering food on campus and was speaking in Spanish to the person taking my order.

In a flash I remembered visiting my mom and talking to her co-workers – Latinos also trying to scrap a living. I remember them being supportive of my education and wishing me the best, as they gave me a free slice of pepperoni.

They, like my mom, were struggling so I wouldn’t have to.

I got back to my office and let the overwhelming emotion flow over me. It was intense… my mom’s hard work put her son on the other side of that counter. Not as a student, but as a professor.

I cried like a baby, y’all.

I grew up a few blocks from CSUN. My parents are perfect examples of the American Dream… the good and the bad.

My dad has been running an auto repair shop for more than 30 years. (Y’all, give him your business because like every small business, he needs your support.)

There were times in my life where we had money… lots of it. And there were times in my life where we had none… a whole lot of nada.

But all that struggle… all their sacrifices… put me here. And put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders… one of the many reasons why I got into journalism.

Man, so many different people have done things for me… some things they could never have imagined would have such impact on me. Organizations like NAHJ, CCNMA, ASNE and others. Some institutions like CIIJ, SFSU, LA Pierce Community College.

I am soooooo blessed.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… this is cheesy. Okay, this is a damn cliché. But it’s my reality, y’all. And one I don’t take lightly… especially when I see my toddler growing. He’s going to know my parents’, mi gentes’ and my struggle to advance him.

Because he too, isn’t going to do it alone.

Um…. personal post over. Hopefully this wasn’t too awkward.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , , ,
28 Apr

Blogger’s Journalist’s house gets raided, why aren’t we more angry?

Gizmodo's Tale of Apple's Next iPhone
Image by Gizmodo

Let’s gets this out of the way. There are a lot of unknowns here and probably lots of potential shady things yet to come out. This story, no doubt, has legs… and lots of them.

But, I have to say, I’m starting to feel really disappointed in the lack of outrage journalists are having to the Gizmodo raid. Maybe I’ve completely missed it, but we should be up in arms here!

And by “we,” I don’t just mean Webby nerds, tech geeks or digital dorks. By “we,” I mean journalists in every newsroom cross platform, across the country.

Where is the statement by the Society of Professional Journalists? The American Society of News Editors? The Online News Association, for heaven’s sake!?!?

If you missed it, Gizmodo posted a recap from their point of view, but here’s my understanding: (Note: You could easily do a search-and-replace here and change “lost” or “found” to “stolen” … or can you? Too soon to say.)

Act I: A new, prototype Apple iPhone was “lost” at a bar in the Bay Area. When this news first broke, many of us thought it was a crafty Apple P.R. stunt rather than a bonehead mistake. Turned out it was the latter and the bonehead employee was later named.

Act II: The “finder” of the phone allegedly attempted to contact Apple to make it aware of the misplaced device… but in the end, Gizmodo paid an estimated $5000 to get their hands on the “found” iPhone.

Act III: After Gizmodo posted a video and photos showcasing the “found” iPhone, it received a memo from Apple asking for their missing property back. The device was “bricked,” or remotely deactivated and made useless, presumably by Apple.

Act IV: Police raided the home of the blogger/reporter who posted the Gizmodo item. They actually knocked down his door while the blogger was not home and seized several pieces of equipment, which included laptops, iPad and more. The police have halted their investigation, once someone pointed about that the blogger is more than likely covered by the federal and state shield law.

Act V: ??? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out.

Again, let’s get certain things out of the way here.

Yes, Gizmodo practiced checkbook journalism to purchase the iPhone. This is not a practice many of us do, condone or can even afford. But, sorry y’all, this type of journalism exists and is more common than we’d like to think. (One word: Paparazzi.)

Second, no matter the quality of it, Gizmodo is actively doing journalism. It’s not part of a legacy masthed, but one that was built by covering tech news — and it does so fairly well.

Third, you and I don’t know the details yet of how that phone was truly acquired. Hell, if Gizmodo was smart, they probably didn’t ask. But the device was acquired… someone leaked it… someone lost it… someone stole it… but the “it” was, and still is, big news. (Did you know Nokia has a missing device? I’m guessing not. Why? Because it ain’t an iPhone.)

Lastly, a journalist’s house was raided by authorities in connection to the device that he openly admitted and publicized he had. Don’t you think that was a little over the top?

So, I am asking myself, why aren’t we more pissed here? Where is our journalistic outrage? Where is the angry mob with pitchforks defending the first amendment right?

Would we be more outraged if instead of the phone it was some classified government document? Or if instead of a corporation like Apple contacting the authorities, it was the government?

Y’all, this is one of the biggest stories in modern journalism and we need to be on top of this… we need to get angry… we need to pick up our pitchforks pens and craft, at the very least, a statement that says this is not okay!

I love Apple too, but I love journalism more.

π