Minorities in the media

A Daily-sponsored panel will discuss the representation of culture in the mainstream media.

by Holly Miller

In partnership with other student groups on campus, The Minnesota Daily has committed to sponsoring a panel discussion Nov. 16 on the portrayal of blacks, Muslims, Latinos and Somalis in the mainstream media. The event is part of Misrepresentation of Minorities in the Media Week, held Nov. 16-20 and organized in large part by the dedication of one of the DailyâÄôs newsroom reporters, Lolla Mohammed Nur. In todayâÄôs diverse society, it is important that we as members of the media and citizens of the United States, which is known to be a melting pot, take the opportunity to actively learn about other cultures and gain a better understanding about people and traditions we may not understand. As journalists, we come across a number of topics we donâÄôt understand when reporting, including cultural and religious backgrounds we are not familiar with. But too often, not enough time is taken with sources to better understand their backgrounds, and sometimes assumptions are wrongly made. Take for example a New York Times article corrected in the Nov. 11 edition. The correction read, âÄúAn article on Monday about difficulties for Muslims serving in the American armed forces described incorrectly the background of Michael A. Monsoor, a member of the Navy Seals. Mr. Monsoor was a Christian of Lebanese and Irish descent, not a Muslim.âÄù Now, I cannot be certain how this mistake was made, but my mind leads me to think this instance points to a lack of time spent discussing someoneâÄôs background and making assumptions rather than asking the necessary questions. But what concerns me more is that in an atmosphere of shrinking newsrooms across the country and a smaller number of people being asked to do more, some of these issues are being swept under the rug, especially when the era of online media has increased pressure to get the story out first, often leading to errors and insensitive reporting. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, American daily newspapers shed 5,900 newsroom jobs last year, 854 of those positions held by minorities. âÄúThe loss of journalists is a loss for democracy,âÄù ASNE President Charlotte Hall said in April. âÄúThe loss of people of color from our newsrooms is especially disturbing because our future depends on our ability to serve multicultural audiences.âÄù The 2009 ASNE census reports 458 newspapers responding had no minorities on their full-time staff. This number has been growing since 2006, according to ASNE. The majority of these newspapers have circulations of 10,000 or less. All newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or more that responded to the census had at least one minority staffer. As jobs continue to be cut (100 more job cuts were announced at the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week) and the diversity of newsrooms suffer along with these cuts, we all must make efforts to do better at our jobs by becoming more culturally aware. Along with my colleague, Ms. Mohammed Nur, I hope this panel can serve as an opportunity for both members of the media and minority communities to move forward in learning about each other, starting much-needed dialogue and beginning a relationship in which we can work together in the future to accurately report on those of diverse backgrounds. The panel discussion is open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. at Coffman Union in the Mississippi Room. Holly Miller welcomes comments at [email protected].