On the day after the nation honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Shop Talk panel discussed the issue of diversity in the newsroom. Panelist Jasmine Crighton shared some information she gathered last week at a workplace integrity seminar in Washington D.C.
Crighton said organizers defined workplace integrity as “environments free of harassment, discrimination, and incivility, and filled with opportunity, especially for those who have traditionally been denied it.”
Crighton said harassment and discrimination often start with what are called “micro-aggressions” – things that are not illegal but things that make people feel uncomfortable and prevent them from reporting the problem. Crighton said she experienced that at a previous job. She had a well-known reporter speak to one of her classes. Afterward the reporter started sending her texts in the middle of the night, and he engaged in similar behavior with a student. Crighton said the reporter eventually lost his job because of his actions.
Crighton said the seminar trained participants to teach others about diversity and harassment issues, and she plans to introduce some of that training to students in her classrooms.
Panelist Rich Egger said TV newsrooms, especially in large markets, have generally become much more diverse. He said the on-air anchors and reporters more accurately reflect the demographics of those urban markets.
But Egger is concerned that diversity is still lacking at the upper levels of management. He said those leaders are the ones who set the tone and establish the culture at a station.
Panelist Will Buss believes social media movements have helped bring attention to discrimination, harassment, and diversity issues. He said they’ve also made it clear that the problems are much more widespread than previously thought.
Buss believes news department leaders who set the wrong tone end up hurting their organization’s journalism.
Shop Talk is a panel discussion featuring Jasmine Crighton, News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University; Will Buss, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at WIU and advises the student editors at the Western Courier; and TSPR News Director Rich Egger.