Reporting On Diverse Communities: Avoiding the Obvious

Jun 21, 2014
Photo by Stephano Corso

It’s no secret that public radio has a diversity issue; diversity in our newsrooms and diversity in our content. News outlets are making efforts to be more inclusive in the reporters they hire and the stories they tell. But that opens up a whole new set of issues: How do you tell stories about a community you aren’t a part of? Is it the job of the reporters from those communities to tell those stories? And what exactly are we talking about when we refer to “diversity?”  A conversation between PRNDI attendees and Tara Gatewood (UNITY) and Hansi Lo Wang (NPR’s Code Switch) at the session entitled "Reporting from Diverse Communities" touched mostly on race and ethnicity, though there are many types of diversity including religious, economic, and gender.

Flickr: MarkGuitarPhoto

When it comes to media, a lot has stayed the same, but a lot has changed, too. Amy Mitchell, the Director of Journalism Research at the Pew Research Center, gave the keynote address at the PRNDI conference this year. She titled her talk "The State of the News Media." In her presentation, she tracked the trajectory of traditional and digital media in the United States.

Here are some of the highlights: 

1. More Media-Makers, Sharper Focus

There are currently 5,000 full-time staff and editorial positions at nearly 500 digital news outlets (30 larger sites and 468 smaller ones). Two areas where these outlets are investing much of their focus are investigative and international coverage. Sites like Propublica and Buzzfeed are cornering the market. Propublica is utilizing data-driven coverage to engage their audience and Buzzfeed is preparing to open offices in Berlin, Tokyo, Mumbai and Mexico. While digital media outlets are major producers, they still account for a small percentage of media producers. Traditional media lost 16,200 jobs from 2003 to 2012 but it has also retained 38,000 full-time editorial newspaper employees.