I first noticed a BuzzFeed admittance on a lack of newsroom diversity in October 2015 — right after I had started my tenure as editor. It was something that stuck with me: The newsroom’s founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti, published BuzzFeed’s successes and failures in hiring persons of differing ethnic and racial backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations.
That article wasn’t his first, either. A year earlier, the newsroom had completely flipped how it saw and incorporated diversity into its daily newsroom practices. Other newsrooms, such as Mic, have also made great strides to hire reporters and editors of differing backgrounds, partially to ensure that they are fairly covering the entire population — not just the segments the predominantly caucasian, male field of journalism identifies with.
Over the past two years, both professors and students have turned my attention to the overwhelming whiteness of The Post’s newsroom. Even without their help, it’s easy to spot: Few of our editors are persons of color; the majority of our editors, indeed, are caucasian women.
According to Ohio University’s Office of Institutional Research, 2015 Fall Enrollment data shows that approximately 5.2 percent of students on the Athens campus identified as African-American, while 3 percent identified as Hispanic. And, according to a previous Post report, there were approximately 1,500 international students on campus during Fall Semester 2016. Those statistics provoke two questions worth exploring: Does our newsroom represent that data fairly, and have we done our part in covering those thousands of students and their interests and experiences while attending OU?
I think it’s safe to say that we have a lot of room to improve. Over the past two weeks, I’ve reached out to several student leaders to gauge how we could improve our reporting. The Post’s incoming editor-in-chief will be compiling a report of how we could improve diversity in our newsroom and in our coverage before the end of the semester. I hope The Post will be public in its findings, admit its faults and publish how it will proceed forward.
Being a diverse, inclusive publication means also striving to push our perceptions of the college experience and how OU students navigate their way through it, and how we cover that comprehensively. Do our reporters come from differing economic backgrounds, or does every staff member identify as cisgender, for example? Are we inclusive in how our staff members identify with their sexualities? Do we have reporters who were raised in Republican and Democratic households, or do our staff members identify with differing faiths?
Each question is important to consider while attempting to cover a campus where we can expect each faculty member and student to identify a little differently. I hope our readers can help us navigate our upcoming plans, too.
Emma Ockerman is a senior studying journalism and editor-in-chief of The Post. Want to talk to her? Tweet her @eockerman or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.