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The story behind the Diversity Directory

12.07.01

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From left: Denny McAuliffe, Catalina Camia, Victor Merina and Ramn Chvez.

As America becomes more diverse, the nations newspaper newsrooms lag further behind in hiring staffs that reflect the communities they serve. The number of blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans in newsrooms must more than double to achieve parity with the national minority population, according to an annual survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

In response to that challenge, the Freedom Forum sent four Traveling Diversity Fellows in search of a new pool of diverse talent for newspaper newsrooms.

For three semesters in 2000 and 2001, the fellows visited more than 210 campuses in 32 states, collecting information on students, college programs and campus publications.

Our primary goal is to help newspapers more quickly find, recruit and develop journalists of color, said Mary Kay Blake, senior vice president/partnerships and initiatives at the Freedom Forum. By tapping the wealth of information the fellows have gathered, we can help ensure that more students of color can know about newsroom careers, obtain internships and eventually find full-time newspaper jobs.

To create this new talent pool, the fellows sought out campuses not usually visited by newspaper recruiters. They identified campuses with publications and large populations of students of color, especially minorities under represented in newsrooms. The campuses included four-year public and private schools, two-year schools, tribal colleges and historically black colleges. They spanned from Mills College in Oakland, Calif., to Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., to Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va.

Claudia Oakes, left, a Campus Echo reporter, looks over an arts and entertainment page with Venus Boston, a student in a writing and reporting class. The Campus Echo is the award-winning newspaper of North Carolina Central University.

The fellows were: Catalina Camia, a Washington-based journalist and former president of the Asian American Journalists Association; Ramn Chvez, now chairman of the Department of Contemporary Media and Journalism at the University of South Dakota; and Denny McAuliffe, Freedom Forum Native American journalist-in-residence at the University of Montana. They worked closely with Freedom Forum fellow Victor Merina at the University of California-Berkeley and a California Chicano News Media Association staff member, Kevin Olivas, who operated under a Freedom Forum grant.

"I found some incredibly hard-working individuals who have dedicated their academic and professional careers to providing the industry with the talent so sorely needed," Chvez said. "And the student talent I encountered was phenomenal as well. There were hundreds of students who have set high standards for themselves, and for the industry.

"The talent is there," he added, "and now editors everywhere will be able to tap into that deep talent pool."

While on campus, the fellows had informal discussions with students about career opportunities in newspaper newsrooms, visited educators and campus publications and participated in classroom lectures. They provided resources for educators and connected the dots for students interested in learning how to prepare for newspaper careers, where to find internship and job opportunities and how to find helpful local and regional resources.

Keri Bradford, a copy and design editor at the Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, was a senior and editor of the University of Tulsa newspaper in fall 2000 when she met McAuliffe on campus.

McAuliffe, who has a special interest in helping Native American journalists, told Bradford, a Choctaw, about the Freedom Forums Chips Quinn Scholars program. She applied and was accepted into the summer 2001 internship class. Bradford did such a good job during her internship at the Capital-Journal that she then was hired full-time.

My visit with fellow Denny McAuliffe allowed me the one-on-one opportunity to ask questions about preparing for graduation and landing my first job, Bradford said. We talked about how to make a difference in the newsroom as a minority. He provided professional insight into the future of newsrooms and offered me challenges as to where I wanted to see myself in that picture.

In addition to visiting journalism programs, the fellows visited other departments that foster interest in journalism — ethnic studies, creative writing and history, for example.

The fellows sought out students at multicultural centers, career centers and other places were potential journalists of color could be found.

In some cases, the fellows provided students with their first introduction to experienced journalists.

In their missionary role, the fellows also worked to bring together students and newspapers needing interns and introduced students to industry organizations such as ASNE, the Society of Professional Journalists and the organizations representing journalists of color.

We believe that the work of the fellows is the beginning of new recruiting opportunities for newspaper editors and new career opportunities for students of color, Blake said.

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