Ever since I took over as Editor in Chief, increasing the diversity in our coverage has been at the forefront of my mind.
I’ve been working for this newspaper since I was a freshman in the fall of 2017. When I joined, there was only two other students of color besides myself, and neither of them were in editorial positions. One of them went on to eventually be our multimedia editor and is still one of my good friends.
But, while I didn’t notice it then, there was very little intentional effort made towards increasing diversity in our coverage. We had the practice of taking headshots of the people we interviewed back then, and let me tell you, a lot of them were white.
And I get it, the Ferris community is predominantly white, no matter how much the university pushes for greater diversity.
But as a student newspaper, we have to examine our intentions and how our coverage impacts our audience, especially those in marginalized communities. We have to take a hard look at who we hire and promote and how diversity in the newsroom impacts our coverage.
I think some of the important questions we could ask ourselves are: whose voices are we giving a platform to and should we be giving a platform to who we are? Who are we choosing to interview for certain stories and why? Are there efforts being made to meaningfully tell the stories and uplift the voices of our students of color?
I think that’s an area we have fallen short in, in the past, asking ourselves these questions and making a conscious effort as a result of our answers. And it’s not as though the intention was the opposite, or we had racist staff members. But I don’t think there was a concerted effort towards diversity and it just perpetuated the same coverage of white students and mainly white student voices in the newspaper.
That’s part of the reason why I pushed for us to dedicate our monthly insert to Black History Month and delegate four full pages to Ferris’ Black history and students. It’s why I focused on stories to elevate our Black athletes’ voices whenever I contribute to our sports section.
To me, this is not an option — it’s a standard, and one I put every effort into holding my staff to. I am not saying we are perfect, but I am saying that this is an expectation I hold for our paper and this is something we think about now.
The other part of this is making sure we are not tokenizing people of color in our coverage. We shouldn’t just be interviewing people of color for stories we think pertain to them—we should be interviewing them in all different kinds of contexts. We cannot only interview our Black students about the Black Lives Matter movement. We should be interviewing them about their thoughts on politics, university news and lifestyle pieces. Do you see the difference?
Representation matters so deeply, and if all of our students cannot see themselves in our paper, are we really a student newspaper that represents the student body? I don’t think we are.
If there is one lasting impression I can leave on my staff, it is the importance of making conscious efforts towards increasing representation in our staff and our coverage as a whole.