Forum gives minorities a voice in journalism

Joe Carlson

any minorities who find themselves stonewalled when applying for media positions are denied more than jobs — they’re also denied their constitutional rights to free speech, according to the Freedom Forum.
The forum is a nonpartisan, international foundation dedicated to the protection of free speech and free spirit for all people, said Freedom Forum Program Coordinator Marie Peralta.
Forum organizers establish and fund educational activities for budding and experienced journalists. The forum also conducts and publishes research about media organizations.
“We put programs out and bring journalists together,” Peralta said.
The forum, which is based in Arlington, Virginia, was founded with an endowment of $100,000 of Gannett Co. stock in 1935. The original 1,500 shares were sold back to the Gannett Co. in 1991 for $670 million.
One of the programs funded by the Freedom Forum is the Chips Quinn Scholars, which is designed to provide minority students with internship experiences at daily newspapers around the country. Last year, 44 students in the United States received the scholarship.
Courtnay Peifer, the Chips Quinn Scholar at the University, worked at the Oakland Tribune in California last summer. Peifer, 21, is a senior journalism major and is aiming for a career in print journalism.
“I love the newsroom,” she said. “This is definitely what I want to do.”
Peifer said her experience at the Oakland Tribune helped her refine her career goals and gave her the confidence to pursue them.
She said that, in the past, many newspaper editors have said they do not hire minorities because they are unqualified. This means many minorities could not gain access to media outlets, which infringed on their freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, Peifer said.
The Freedom Forum is combatting this situation, Peifer said, by providing minorities with real-world experience.
“If you don’t have minorities cover your news,” Peifer said, “there are going to be perspectives and ideas missing.” She said a wide collection of ideas is central to objectivity and fairness, two basic tenets of journalism.
“There need to be minorities in the newsroom to be representative of the population at large,” she said.
She said the Chips Quinn Scholars program allows minorities the opportunity to enter positions that they have often been denied.
“It is giving minorities a job that they traditionally had to break a lot of doors down to enter,” Peifer said.