Numbers are up, but many staffs lack diversity: forty-four percent of newspapers report they have no minorities in any part of the newsroom. (Diversity or Opinion).
Ten years ago, Lee Salem, then editorial director of Universal Press Syndicate Universal Press Syndicate, an Andrews McMeel Universal company, is the world's largest independent syndicate and provides syndication for a number of lifestyle and opinion columns, comics, and various other content. , told the National Association of Black Journalists The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), was founded in 1975 by 44 men and women in Washington, D.C. Headquartered at the University of Maryland, College Park and with 3300 members, it is the largest organization of journalists of color in the nation. how hard it was to place black columnists without "credentials" or a "public image" in syndication.
"One of the problems we run into is that many op-ed page editors tend to put people and ideas they represent into boxes," Salem said in the NABJ NABJ National Association of Black Journalists Journal story headlined, "Papers Pass Up Black Columnists."
In 2002, says Salem, now the syndicate's executive vice president and editor, "I wish I could say that we're improving, but I can't. There's less space for op-ed writers, as more pages are going toward locals--the professor at a junior college who spent three weeks in Iraq and now is an expert on the Mideast. And they want distinct categories: 'I have a conservative, I don't need another: 'I have an African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. , I don't need another.'"
No one knows exactly how many people of color Noun 1. people of color - a race with skin pigmentation different from the white race (especially Blacks)
people of colour, colour, color
race - people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock; "some biologists doubt that there are important are working on editorial boards these days, but the number is increasing. African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans This page is a list of Asian Americans. Politics
There is obviously a long way to go. The American Society of Newspaper Editors annual survey, which put the percentage of journalists of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color working at daily newspapers at 12.07%, also reported that 422 newspapers, or 44%, responded that they had no minorities in any part of the newsroom.
The people I know on editorial pages are generally happy. They agree with Betty Baye of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, who says, "It is crucially important for people of color to be on editorial boards, not just to write diversity stories, of course, but also to help white editorial writers see, if they cannot, possibly a different perspective on everything from foreign policy to the economy."
But many worry that some papers may have a "one-black" (or other person of color Noun 1. person of color - (formal) any non-European non-white person
person of colour
individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul - a human being; "there was too much for one person to do" ) rule--not just in the selection of columnists for a given day, but on the editorial page staff itself They see the difference between the conservative writers of color whom some pages choose to run and others, who win prizes at the NABJ convention, who are seen more in the mainstream of black thought. And they question the expectations an editor might have of the writer of color.
These colleagues want to be free to write on any subject: "One of the things I like about the [Wall Street] Journal," says Jason Riley of that newspaper's editorial board, "is that I wasn't expected to be the 'black' writer. It wasn't assumed I was going to be trotted out to speak about race.
On the other hand, most don't want their racial bona fides bona fi·des
1. (used with a sing. verb) Good faith; sincerity.
2. (used with a pl. verb) Information that serves to guarantee a person's good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials: minimized. One of the liveliest panel discussions at the NABJ convention in 2001 was one called "A Journalist's Dilemma: Do I Write Too Often on Black Issues?"
Syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Lenard Pitts is a nationally-syndicated columnist and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He was originally hired by the Miami Herald to critique music, but within a few years he received his own column in which he dealt extensively with race, politics, and culture. , not scheduled to be on the panel, found a way to join it because, he said, he felt so strongly about the issue. Why is knowledge of racial issues not regarded as a specialty, as are the economy and defense, he and the others asked. Are whites asked if they write too much about "white" issues?
"We need to be seen as commentators who see the world from a unique prism," says Metro columnist Stan Simpson of The Hartford Courant Cou`rant´
a. 1. (Her.) Represented as running; - said of a beast borne in a coat of arms.
n. 1. A piece of music in triple time; also, a lively dance; a coranto.
But those arguments assume that editorial writers of color are at the table.
Just recently, said Marisa Trevino, an NCEW member who freelances in Dallas-Fort Worth, she was told by an Oklahoma op-ed editor that "in all likelihood we would never run one of your columns."
"When I pressed him as to why--was it the quality of writing, or because I didn't live in the state?--he implied that Latinos were not their main reading audience," Trevino said. "Op-ed editors have such a great opportunity not only to showcase diverse opinions but also to introduce segments of society to one another."
Says David Person of the Huntsville Times in Alabama: "Editorial page editors need to look around them. Most boards are predominantly composed of white men. Even among the most fair-minded, this won't lead to much original thinking. Diversity isn't a threat or an intellectual compromise. It's one of the main methods for keeping newspapers honest."
Diversity doesn't happen by accident. "It has to be purposeful," says Lewis Diuguid, columnist and vice president at the Kansas City Kansas City, two adjacent cities of the same name, one (1990 pop. 149,767), seat of Wyandotte co., NE Kansas (inc. 1859), the other (1990 pop. 435,146), Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties, NW Mo. (inc. 1850). Star, whose editorial board has two African Americans and recently added a column by a Latino to the op-ed page.
"What do we get from this variety?" asks Wayne Dawkins of the Daily Press in Hampton Roads Hampton Roads, roadstead, 4 mi (6.4 km) long and 40 ft (12.2 m) deep, SE Va., through which the waters of the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth rivers pass into Chesapeake Bay. , Virginia, who believes strongly that editorial pages must be diverse in race, gender, age, and of course, points of view. "Lots of reader interaction' he answers. "The volume of reader mail has increased from regular writers, and [we have] many new readers."
NCEW is doing its part with its Minority Writers Seminar, which began in 1996. About 25% of those who attended the first five seminars are now writing editorials or columns professionally, including Alberta Brooks, Leroy Chapman, Gary Clack, Shanna Flowers, Deborah Locke, Doug Lyons, Gloria Padilla, and Enrique Rangel, to name a few.
And if we can find a way to do it, NCEW would like to conduct its own census of editorial pages, to find out just how diverse our pages are and to measure our progress year to year.
'Happiest Place on Earth'
I like to quote from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which commissioned a study called "The Newspaper Journalists of the '90s," published in 1997. It found that "on almost every measure of opinion or attitude, the editorial writers are more upbeat than their newsroom colleagues. In fact, if everyone were as content with their jobs as editorial writers, America's newsrooms America's Newsroom with Bill Hemmer & Megyn Kelly is an American news/talk program on Fox News Channel, first airing on February 12, 2007  . might challenge Disneyland for the title of 'Happiest Place on Earth."'
How stimulating it would be it be if our pages were among the most diverse as well.
NCEW member Richard Prince
Richard Prince, (born 1949 in the U.S.-controlled Panama Canal Zone, now part of Republic of Panama) is an American painter and photographer. is chair of the Diversity Committee A former editorial writer, he works part-time as an assistant foreign editor at The Washington Post. E-Mail him at email@example.com