Letter from the Content Diversity Board: Launching the findings of our first year

Illustrated by Morgan La Casse

Illustrated by Morgan La Casse

When the Content Diversity Board was formed last June, we set out to ask tough questions of ourselves and our colleagues about how we approach journalism.

As students, we’re taught to get as close to objectivity in our stories as possible. To be fair and trustworthy journalists, we must tell it straight down the middle. But we would be denying our subjectivity as people if we pretend that unconscious bias doesn’t affect how we write.

In the institution of journalism, though it is certainly not the exception, these biases have undermined people of color, women, the LGBTQ+  community and many other minoritized groups. The goal should not be to bury our biases under the guise of objectivity, but to always remain open to interrogating them. It is not our dedication to facts and truth-seeking that must change, but our understanding of which voices need uplifting.

One of the board’s first tasks was to gather feedback from student and faculty leaders about our coverage. What could we do better? Where have we gone wrong in the past? We heard over and over again that the Daily needs to do a better job of showing up, consistently. We can’t only cover a community when there’s bad news.

At the end of the fall semester, we hosted our first public forum and invited members of the University community. We greatly appreciated the time and input from our participants, and we plan to make it an annual event.

We also developed different methods for tracking diversity in our content. Based on our data, we found 52% of people quoted in our stories identified as male, 46% were female and 2% were nonbinary. One in four stories covered communities who have historically been underrepresented by the media. On the visuals side, 28% of photos with human subjects featured a person of color.

Additionally, we administered demographic surveys to better understand the diversity of our own newsroom. We estimate that 16%-31% of newsroom staff were people of color in the fall, and 21%-28% in the spring. After surveying past employees, we learned editorial leadership positions have been filled by nearly all white staff for the last 15 years.

Nearing a year later, we know that there is significantly more work to be done. But we are extremely proud to have laid the foundation for a board that we know will continue to make a change in the community.

As a news organization, we believe in the power of transparency and accountability. That is why we have included our findings, with recommendations on how to move forward, in our final, year-end report. We hope that this report is one of many, and that future staff members at the Daily continue supporting our mission.

 

Minnesota Daily Content Diversity Board End-Of-Year Report 2019-2020

 

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