Editorial: Journalism is not immune to elitist bias

Newsrooms across the country are lacking reporter diversity, which in return is limiting the coverage we see.

by Daily Editorial Board

Journalists across the country were abuzz last week when Theodore Kim, who is director of newsroom fellowships at the The New York Times, tweeted a list of the “best” colleges that produce the most “consistently productive” journalists.

His top four universities? Columbia University, Northwestern University, University of California, Berkeley and Yale University. Not shockingly, these universities have a student population demographic that is predominately white.

While those are all great universities with students who posses high academic standards and achievements, a large number of hardworking journalism students across the country were excluded from the list — including people of color and students from a low-income background. 

The total annual costs of these institutions are also some of the highest in the country. Out of Kim’s designated “best” schools, Columbia University is the most expensive with Forbes reporting its annual cost at $74,199. 

Only recognizing these institutions and admitting students from a certain pool limits newsroom diversity across the country. This affects the content that newsrooms put out and ultimately influences national media coverage. There are clear obstacles, both financial and academic, to enter these universities. If newsrooms want to represent diverse interests and viewpoints, they should be doing more to recruit students from those backgrounds and forgo elitist assumptions. The media works best for all when the stories and the newsrooms producing the stories are welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

Well-known and respected newsrooms, like The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, are predominantly white and male, while corporations like Vox are predominantly white women. When reading articles online, the average person might not think much of the individual behind the computer screen, but the voice behind the story is very important. For those who come from isolated backgrounds, stories regarding their communities may end up mischaracterizing their actual experiences.

It is important that news coverage is objective and expansive. We should not restrict our reporting and coverage to communities that look like our own gender or racial or cultural background. We need to recognize the importance of having a wide range of stories and experiences, which includes being intentional with diversifying our newsrooms.

We at The Minnesota Daily recognize we’re not perfect at this ourselves. We need to better incorporate all voices in our reporting, staff and story subjects. For us, incorporating diversity workshops and being mindful of our content is just the start.

Great writers will always come out of Yale, Columbia, Berkeley and any other top-tier journalism school. But publicly acknowledging only a select few schools not only neglects hard working journalists but also discourages potential writers from pursuing a career in journalism.

All perspectives are important when it comes to accurately reporting and sharing the stories of the world around us. It’s the name of the journalism game. Whether that be in our own newsrooms or universities, we need to be aware of the voices we include at the journalism table.