Offering Solutions to the Lack of Diversity in Journalism and Tech

I noticed it. The new hires came pouring through Twitter and immediately I saw the trend – males. Typically white males. From established media organizations.

Emily Bell was the one to call it out though. She did that last week in her piece in the Guardian about how the new tech startups in journalism (which are being heralded as the ‘future of journalism’) aren’t revolutionary if they are full of white males. In fact, she says, they look awfully similar to the status quo.

Quite a few of the people involved in the startups got defensive about the piece and began picking it apart, but I suggest we go the other route. Let’s look at the solutions. The great thing is that many people are offering those solutions:

  • The deputy editor in chief of Buzzfeed, Shani Hilton, wrote about how building a diverse newsroom takes work, but that it’s worth the effort in her experience. She offers concrete examples of how to widen networks and find the diverse talent that will help improve your organization.
  • Zombie Journalism had an article about how actually posting a job can help startups get more diverse candidates. “Post your jobs early on and spread them to your social networks, your real-life networks and email lists for organizations like ONA, NABJ, AAJA, NAHJ, JAWS and many more journalism organizations.”
  • Zeynep Tufekci discussed how even if these guys are “basically, outsiders” (which was Nate Silver’s defense when asked about his reaction to Emily Bell’s piece by New York Magazine) it doesn’t mean that they are good at being inclusive. She posits that the “brogrammers” are not immune to sexism.

But people aren’t just talking about the issue (although it is important to do so), some are actually taking action:

  • A new group called TechSistas formed organically on Twitter, are working to help “Latina, Black, and Native American women in tech.”
  • Another group (Diversify.journalismwith.me) is responding to the claim that conference organizers can’t find men and women of color to speak at their journalism events by creating a list of web journalists who are interested in speaking at events.

Still others are saying that the problem is deeper than a networking issue, it’s a pipeline problem. These folks are saying that we need to go back to the beginning – young girls in school, preferably younger than 10 years old – and get them excited and interested in a career in technology.

  • Jo Roach says she has aimed to have a 50:50 gender split at her tech company, but it can be difficult because women aren’t entering the tech field because “subtle forces at play from a very young age that discourage girls from this path.” She also says that women who are in tech need to be more visible and more vocal.
  • Slightly related, an industry group (CompTIA Advancing Women in IT Community) plans to reach out to 10,000 women, students and prospective employers about job opportunities available for women in the IT field. The article linked also discusses some of the pipeline issues and how women working in the field feel “stalled.”

A roundup: there is a problem of having all male, all white news organizations and to change that it will take some work on the part of the hiring managers – networking better and maybe even changing job descriptions/requirements to be able to reach and appeal to those minority candidates. On the flip side, women and men of color who are in journalism and/or the tech field can stand up and be more visible (not that we aren’t already doing that, but it doesn’t hurt to make a concerted effort to do more). Finally, the problem begins way back in primary school, so true change will also require some work on that end.

Have any other solutions? Read any other articles or posts on this topic? Please share in the comments. I want this to be a growing list of resources.

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About Stephanie Y.

I'm a professional news writer in Frederick, Maryland. I blog at S.Y. Ciphers.

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