The American journalism industry is evolving. Digital news startups are increasingly capturing readership and revenue from traditional print outlets. It’s now common practice to publish stories online before they hit the print version.
One realm in which media companies have been slow to evolve, however, is in the diversity of their newsrooms. Racial and ethnic minorities make up just 12.8 percent of the workforce at U.S. daily newspapers, according to the American Society of News Editors, and this figure represents a decrease of half a percentage point from 2005.
The homogeneity of America’s newsrooms is a sorry fact, and the Collegian is hardly an exception to this rule. The Collegian has long had a white-dominated editorial staff, and in the past we’ve been taken to task — often rightly — for not adequately giving a voice to minority students and staff at the College. This year we have sought, and we will continue to seek, to make our coverage truly representative of the Kenyon community.
It is the Collegian’s duty, and that of all student newspapers, to record life on campus as it unfolds; this requires that we highlight the experiences of all constituencies — be they racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, socioeconomic, or those involving gender or sexual orientation — who call the Hill home. To this end, next semester we plan on appointing a diversity ombudsperson, who will consult with the Collegian’s editors on issues of diversity and act as a liaison between the paper’s staff and the wider community.
We were inspired at a national collegiate journalism conference in October to introduce this new position, which exists at some other papers. As we are still in the early stages of figuring out how this position works at other schools, and how it could work at Kenyon, we welcome suggestions and ideas from our readers.
The recent events at the University of Missouri, Yale University, Occidental College and even here at Kenyon confirm the need to recognize both the ongoing racial prejudice and the importance of open discourse at institutions of higher education.
One condition of open discourse, however, is that public meetings be truly public. Through this ombudsperson position, the Collegian hopes to continue working with all-campus groups and administrative bodies to ensure that events and discussions open to the public can be reported on fully. As journalists, we believe the best way to illuminate issues of social justice is through open dialogue — dialogue that can be relayed in a newspaper that we hope will become more reflective of our diverse readership.