[guest post by Dana]
Today, New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan asks whether diversity in the newsroom matters:
Does it matter who reports the news and comments on it? Does it make a difference if top editors of news organizations include plenty of women as well as plenty of men, and black and Hispanic journalists as well as white ones?
Sullivan offers two sources of support for her position that yes, it does indeed matter.
Nieman Reports, in a recent study, says diverse editorial leadership results in good things for coverage and readers alike. So does a focus on racial issues. The study, which is part of a special edition on race and reporting, quotes Nikole Hannah-Jones, who covers racial injustice for the Times Magazine. “We’ve been hearing the same thing for decades,” she complains — quite rightly. “Newsrooms have not really changed.”
Separately, the Women’s Media Center looks at diversity from a different angle, gender, and asks: Who is writing the news?
Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, explains the impact of women, on average, writing only a third of stories at major newspapers. “Media tells us our roles in society – it tells us who we are and what we can be,” Ms. Burton said in an introduction to the report. “This new report tells us who matters and what is important to media – and it is not women.”
How does the NYT fare? Sullivan notes that while Dean Baquet, the paper’s first African-American top editor’s masthead “lacks significant racial diversity,” there is a strong female representation. Also, 5 of 13 editors on his news-side masthead are women. Further, bylines lack a female presence, and blacks are missing from its number of “culture critics”.
Sullivan explains why she believes newsroom diversity matters:
My experience leading a newsroom showed me, time and time again, that staff diversity results in better and different coverage. (I was proud to appoint women of color as executive sports editor and editorial board member, two firsts.) Not in some kind of silly or obvious straight-line way, as in “women write about things that interest women readers.” It’s more this: When the group is truly diverse, the nefarious groupthink that makes a publication predictable and, at times, unintentionally biased, is much more likely to be diminished. And that’s a good thing.