Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Paler Shade of White

I noticed Calvin’s AP Stylebook as I approached his table, which sat amongst a sea of student workspaces on the first floor of Byrd Library. Tomorrow marked the class where our group had to present a summary of Frank and Cook’s The Winner-Take-All Society, accompanied by a liberal and conservative critique. Nyrie completed our presentation trio as the liberal counterpart to my conservative spin and Calvin’s objective center.

But Nyrie wasn’t there yet, so there was some time to break the ice. Who knew that the “journalist’s bible” could spark conversation?

I soon found out that Calvin was a magazine journalism major, minoring in political science. He was in the middle of editing stories for Jerk magazine when I came and sat down.

I’ve always wanted to write for Jerk but I never got around to it. The Daily Orange had become my main journalistic outlet that I just never really strayed from.

“So, how diverse is the staff?” he asked, being Jerk’s copy editor himself.

My mind reflected on the D.O. office on a typical Monday night. I go into a side room on the first floor to write my Student Association story and pass through majority of the house on my way to the News room for editing. I was disappointed to realize that after mentally skimming all the faces I do encounter during my visit to 744 Ostrom, every single one is white. Granted, I don’t see everyone that passes through the front door. But from entering, walking up the stairs, around the corner, down the hall and past perhaps five rooms, I can’t seem to recall seeing any differences.

Just a few weeks ago in editing class we were talking about how it’s important to have a diverse staff. Staffing a workforce outfitted with a variety of people, coming from different backgrounds and different experiences, helps against producing a biased paper. Coverage is expanded by the input of broad range of interests, some that might otherwise be ignored or unknown without familiarity of certain communities.

I was embarrassed. I hadn’t realized how uniform the D.O. was.

“It probably wouldn’t hurt to have more diversity..” I didn’t know how to say, “Yeah, it’s all white.” I didn’t want to admit it.

Calvin brought up how he was surprised that the Jena 6 demonstrations hadn’t been reported on. I know The Black Voice had an A1 dedicated to it, and rightfully so. But where was the D.O.’s coverage?

I shamefully had no explanation for the D.O.’s ignorance. As much as it’s my news editor’s job to find newsworthy topics for articles and to assign stories to writers, I too have a responsibility to pitch stories that I think are important.

Nyrie did show up to our meeting soon after that, and we did get our presentation together. We laughed about our class and similar experiences with past political science courses.

Our presentation went well today; we each executed our parts without hesitation and with confidence. I’m happy to say I think we all came away with A on the project, but I think I came away with a much more valuable evaluation overall.

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