14 Apr Guest post: ‘Let’s talk about #JournalismSoWhite’
This is a guest post by Yessenia Funes, editor at YES Magazine and one of the panelists at the April 12 #JournalismSoWhite discussionÂ in Seattle. SPJ Western WA Pro Chapter board member Marcus Green helped organize the event, and he and chapter president Athima Chansanchai served as twoÂ of the moderators.
This piece has been republished with her permission. Go to her website for the original post:
This past Tuesday, fourÂ journalists of color and I spoke to a group of Seattleites about #JournalismSoWhite. The event was hosted by several local journalismÂ organizations, where moderators, alsoÂ local journalists, asked panelists a series of questions aboutÂ the the media industryâ€™s lack of diversity.
I got to the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, where the event was held, super nervous, but, as I met the other panelists, I felt a sense of relief, a sense of camaraderie. I felt safe.
Joining me on stage were Tyrone Beason, staff reporter at Pacific Northwest Magazine;Â Venice Buhain, news editor of the Seattle Globalist;Â Jerry Large, Seattle Times columnist; and Christina Twu, also an editor at the Globalist.
All our differentÂ experiences affectedÂ ourÂ responsesÂ in the panel. We all spoke eloquently and, I hope, honestly. I, at least, didnâ€™t hold back. (Yes, I even used the word â€œratchetâ€ at some point.) When it comes to discussing race, you gottaâ€™ keep it real. Thatâ€™s how conversations start.
While Iâ€™d love to go on and on aboutÂ every little thing we said, that would take forever. My girl Ana Sofia Knauf was in the audience though. Sheâ€™s a reporter at Seattleâ€™s alt-weekly The Stranger, and she got you. Check out her and Ansel Herzâ€™sÂ debrief on the panel itself.
Real talk, though, these were the main points:
- Diversity is a problem in media, and that wonâ€™t change simply by hiring reporters. We need diversity at the top too.
- Keep curiosity alive. To learn about the people youâ€™re writing about. To tell the story. To keep standardsÂ high. I donâ€™t know everything about my culture, and I especially donâ€™t know everything aboutÂ yours. And remember: A person isnâ€™t his or herÂ culture. Donâ€™t go into a story thinking youâ€™re interviewingÂ a culture. Youâ€™re interviewing a human being. Ask questions. Get outside your comfort zone.
- The media industry itself needs to evolve beyond â€œobjectivity.â€ Objectivity is bullshit. Journalists simply have to do two things: Be honest and be fair. JournalistsÂ beat each other downÂ whenÂ theyÂ straddle that fence ofÂ â€œobjectivity.â€ (Remember Jorge Ramos and Donald Trump?) Fuck that. Ask the hard questions. And tell the damn story the way it deservesÂ to be toldâ€”honestly and fearlessly.
- Letâ€™s keep the dialogue alive. Being open is what creates safe spaces. We need spaces whereÂ our superiors and colleaguesÂ approach us not only for our â€œotherly perspective,â€ butÂ for a personal check in too. We also need spaces where our readers feel welcome to criticize us and where we canÂ criticize each other.
Just today, my fellow editors and I sat down to discuss whether we should capitalize the â€œBâ€ in Black and the â€œWâ€ in white. AP style lowercases. Most news outlets do. But a fewÂ publications that cater to the Black community do capitalize the â€œB.â€ Colorlines. Ebony. Essence. So we decided, â€œFuck it. Why not?â€ Especially now that weâ€™ve had some Black writers requestÂ that in their writing. This New York Times columnÂ even makes a solid case for it.
Iâ€™ve had a full day now to let everything sink in, and I know one thing is true: The media wonâ€™t diversify overnight. With that being said, changes like YES!â€™s can happen overnight. Not everyÂ publication needs to make a radical, grammatical, anti-AP change, but, we do need to talk about what our writers of color preferÂ and what the communitiesÂ weâ€™reÂ writing about prefer.
A conversation is a start. Last night, we had the chance to start oneÂ in Seattle. As for my media homies elsewhere, I dare you to do the same.