Lydia Laythe |
To be honest, the idea of talking about journalism for three days straight made me a little nervous. I’m a social work major. How could I have anything in common with 1,600 professional journalists. But the truth is, there are issues that face everyone – as people – that don’t only exist in the social work realm or only in the journalistic realm. The one issue that I gravitated towards during our time in Chicago was diversity. Three of the many sessions I attended were directly related to diversity. The panel discussion on Ferguson discussed many journalistic topics, but also touched on some racial issues. The panel discussion titled “Lady Leaders Lightning Talk” addressed the issues of being a strong female leader in a predominantly male-led field. Lastly, the panel on diversity obviously discussed diversity: the tools employers can use to cultivate diversity and the importance of diversity itself.
“All Eyes on Ferguson”
The first session I attended was the panel on Ferguson, which was the first key note address of the conference. The discussion was REALLY interesting. Here are some of the best quotes that I took away from the discussion:
“He was armed with his blackness.” – Trymaine Lee on Mike Brown being unarmed.
“White Ferguson didn’t understand. For people of color, we know better than to wait (and say) ‘don’t worry, the legal system’s got our back.’” – Wesley Lowery about whites unaware of their privilege in trusting police/legal system.
“Moments like this, when the (racial) divide is so clear… we obviously have an issue with dialogue.” – Trymaine Lee about the lack of communication/understanding between white and black people.
Reflection on the first session:
So many thoughts came to me during this session. The first thing I noticed was that fact that the journalists of color commented more on the issues of race in their coverage, while the white journalists commented on the issues of national versus local coverage (avoiding the racial element of the issue). And I think that’s a problem. I think race is such an important issue that everyone needs to be aware of. And I think it’s important (as journalists and human beings) to be aware of the way race might influence the way you cover a story, the connections you’ll have in a story, etc. For example, the white male journalist (David) commented that the Ferguson police had complained to him about the riots. Neither Wesley nor Trymaine (two black males) had commented about talking to the police – or getting honest confessions from them like David did. So, my analysis of this was: because David was white, the officers felt more comfortable being honest with him. I think being aware that your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. might influence the responses you do (or do not) get from sources is important.
Also, I think Wesley and Trymaine really touched on some SERIOUS racial issues in the United States – how being black is reason enough to assume criminality and just how poor our conversations are about race in the U.S. We don’t talk about it nearly enough – and we don’t have enough white people joining to conversation to bring awareness to white privilege. Again, this goes back to being aware of the privileges or disadvantages you might face given something you have no control over.
“Lady Leaders Lightning Talks”
The second session I want to talk about was “Lady Leaders Lightning Talks.” I thought this was another really wonderful discussion. There were eight really strong, confident, powerful women on stage talking about times they felt insecure, times they were confronted with sexism, and times they learned to be strong. At the beginning of the session, the women were asked to go around and each say the best piece of advice they were ever given. I compiled their advice into one list:
Advice from Lady Leaders
- Say “no” (know your limitations; don’t feel obligated to always be accommodating)
- Say “yes” (don’t let fear or insecurity or other people hold you back)
- Expect resistance
- Pass the ladder down (look out for other young women and help them in ways you wanted)
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
- Look at all the possibilities
A lot of the women had some really great quotes too:
My favorite: “The best piece of advice I ever got, I gave to myself.” – Anna Holmes
“It’s okay. You’ll make a lot of mistakes but you’ll make them out of love.” – Ann Marie Lipinski
“If something scares you, it’s probably worth doing.” – Liz Heron
“We’re not ladies, we’re journalists.” – Susan Smith Richardson
Reflection on the second session:
Women make up half the population. Women make up more than half the population of UP. We make up almost all the population of The Beacon. I don’t worry so much about female representation on The Beacon staff, but I do worry about the female representation in administration. I worry that the strong, intelligent, creative women in the newsroom may face discrimination in other places. I think it’s important to have discussions about diversity, and I think that our experiences outside The Beacon are as important as our experiences within. And I think that our experiences outside can influence our experiences within. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that possibility and be willing to talk about it. I hope that we can bring back an openness in the newsroom that allows for the honest sharing of thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
The third session I want to talk about is the panel called “Digital Diversity,” and it focused on the employment end of incorporating diversity. The moderator, Justin Ellis, encouraged employers to strive for a newsroom like The Planeteers – diverse and representative. And that was an idea that each presenter reiterated. Here are some quotes from the discussion:
“Why is diversity important? – It’s the simplest and saddest question of all time.” – Justin Ellis
“If you look outside… it’s not mostly white.” – Kim Bui
“You can’t cover things in a just and fair way (without diversity).” – Kim Bui
“I hate that it’s my burden to be the diversity” – Kim Bui
“You have to talk to people.” – Danyel Smith
Reflection on the third session:
This session gave me a lot of energy and ideas about how to be a better Beacon, how to be more aware of diversity, and how to intentionally incorporate diversity into our newsroom/stories. The most exciting thought I had was: bring more diversity into the newsroom. Invite students from Black Student Union, Gay Straight Partnership, Feminist Discussion group, etc. to serve as representatives to come to our Tuesday meetings and pitch ideas. But not just pitch ideas, I want to ask students to also reflect on how they perceive The Beacon’s depiction of them (Do we accurately cover the issues facing all students/the students themselves?). For example, is the only time we ever write about students from Hawaii is when they’re dancing in the quad at activities fair? Does that upset them/reduce them to only one aspect of their culture/being? These are important questions to be asking and talking about. I’m really energized about this idea and I think it’d be a good way to be more aware of the diverse issues facing our diverse student body.
I think those three sessions covered three important topics – for journalists, for social workers, for human beings. And I’m excited to bring this knowledge and awareness back to The Beacon and use it to help promote discussions, honesty, and diversity.