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Can we finally stop counting colors?

For me, one of highlights of our recent SPJ Annual Convention & National Journalism Conference was meeting Roberto Pazos.

He wasn't a keynote speaker. Pazos is the assignment editor at CNN En Espanol. My chance encounter with Pazos, who is originally from South America, at this year's Mark of Excellence luncheon evolved into a memorable, nearly hour-long post-luncheon conversation that among other things made me more sensitive to the difference between a Hispanic journalist from Cuba and a Hispanic journalist from South America.

While Pazos manages the assignment desk at CNN En Espanol, he would not be counted among the increasing number of minority journalists who are in management positions in television newsrooms.

A subsidiary of Time Warner, CNN En Espanol is not typically included in the Radio-Television News Directors Association Annual Survey. CNN En Espanol would certainly not have been counted in the American Society of Newspaper Editors survey, which is now in its 30th year.

Conducted in the fourth quarter of 2007, the latest RTNDA/Hofstra University Annual survey of 1,647 non-satellite television stations and a sample of 2,000 radio stations showed minorities in TV news at 23.6 percent, the second highest level ever.

When you compare this data to the 2008 American Society of Newspaper Editors census of daily newspapers, the picture continues to reflect a more diverse cadre of broadcast journalists than the 13.5 percent of minority journalists at newspapers.

But is that something to celebrate? Or is it time to re-think and re-make our approach to shining the spotlight on diversity? After 30 years of keeping track of these data and trotting them out with press releases each year, is this is all we have to show for our efforts as a profession?

As the newly appointed chairman of the SPJ Journalism Education Committee, which is charged with promoting "practical research," I'm wondering if we need to break some new research ground in hopes of developing research that would find journalists such as new friend Roberto Pazos?

He wasn't counted in these perennial surveys, but he's contributing to the international mix of news that is available to viewers around the world. Does it dilute our diversity efforts if journalists expand their focus beyond English-language news outlets, local and broadcast networks?

As part of its strategic plan, the Society of Professional Journalists has vowed to increase the number and percent of under-represented populations in leadership positions and membership. The plans also address the need for "ongoing assessment" of our professional development efforts toward promoting "inclusive coverage."

Counting the color of journalists' skin makes our diversity effort so one-dimensional. While it's important to know to what extent our workforce is like our audiences, such data cannot be the end of what we do as a profession to address racial and ethnic diversity.

We can't stop counting. We must do that AND other things. Might I suggest forming more cross-cultural personal relationships like I am doing with my new friend Roberto? It's these kinds of relationships that can result in the increase of diversity of our own newsrooms.

A true commitment to diversity is not dependent on counting colors; it's measured in the whole way that we approach what we do, whether it be a hiring decision, a story on which we're working or on a journalism program that we're assembling.

Beyond the numbers: diversity directions

1. Regardless of your racial background, form a one-on-one relationship with a journalist from a historically underrepresented racial group

2. Actively participate in groups and organizations with those from underrepresented racial groups.

3. Seek out the person who reports the diversity figures from your newsroom to either the American Society of Newspaper Editors or Radio-Television News Directors Association and ask about specific strategies he/she is using to find a more diverse set of applicants for a particular opening.

4. Volunteer to do a "Career Day" or similar program at a local middle or high school where students from historically underrepresented groups are in the majority and use that as a opportunity to sow seeds of interest in journalism.

5. Team up with other SPJ members and propose an activity that SPJ can do at its national convention or spring training conference to reinvigorate diversity.

A former local television news producer, Dr. George L. Daniels is now an assistant professor of journalism at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He can be reached at
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Title Annotation:Quill Toolbox: Diversity; CNN En Espanol
Comment:Can we finally stop counting colors?(Quill Toolbox: Diversity)(CNN En Espanol)
Author:Daniels, George
Publication:The Quill
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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