Local journalists discuss diversity in the field

The Journalism in Color panel tackled the issue of minority journalist ethics with Venita Hawthorne-James, Heidi Renpenning, Warren Trent, Charly Edsitty and Abe Kwok Wednesday evening. (Katelyn Finegan/DD)

On Wednesday night, four journalists from around the Valley all converged at the Cronkite school to talk about diversity in a panel hosted by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists and Asian American Journalists Association.

The idea for the panel began with Sydney Greene, the vice president of NABJ at ASU. Currently a senior, Greene said she has been struggling with the concept of reporting the news as a minority since her freshman year when Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson.

“The rise of Black Lives Matter left me confused as a journalist and an activist for my people and my identity as a black woman,” Green said. “I was concerned about how that translates into my journalism career.”

The event, “Journalism in Color,” aimed to get students’ questions answered by seasoned local reporters. The topics included social media, personal editing and the lack of diversity in newsrooms.

Greene’s primary question was, “Is it possible to show an audible bias but still be considered a respectable journalist?”

Abe Kwok, of The Arizona Republic, was the most critical respondent.

“Even as an editorial writer and opinion maker, I refrain from sharing my own opinions. Rather, I gather other opinions to share,” he said.

Warren Trent, an on-air reporter for 3TV, disagreed.

“A mistake is saying someone is from Ahwatukee and they’re from Glendale; something is not inaccurate because someone doesn’t like it,” Trent said.

The four different reporters, of four different races, each spoke with carefully crafted phrases. The ways in which each newsroom deals with the sensitivity of the topic is different.

One way that The Arizona Republic is dealing with not only a lack of diversity in the newsroom but a lack of diversity of stories being covered is through their diversity committee, Kwok said.

The diversity committee is composed of a cross-section of reporters and editors from The Arizona Republic’s newsroom with the goal of catching what’s being missed in the daily news coverage.

“Instead of just being reactive, we now look to bring communities into our newsrooms,” Kwok said. “We’re having these conversations, whether it be with the LGBT community, or people of color.”

This, he went on, combats the idea of an “echo chamber,” or similar voices sharing similar stories, in the newsroom.

Contact the reporter at Rachel.Banks@asu.edu.