a little bit about diversity

This past week I took off for Chicago for UNITY 2008, a quadrennial conference put on by the major minority journalist orgs.

I always get little sleep and have lots of fun — seeing old colleagues, meeting new people and remembering why I love this business.

This year I felt odd. I am one of the few laid-off young journalists I’ve heard of. I was still able to come (thanks to the folks at McClatchy, most of whom I do not hold a grudge), so I could look at all the gloom and doom statements with a little bit of experience.

On top of that, I was cruising the career fair for jobs, this time as a web producer.

Before leaving for the conference, I scheduled a couple of interviews with non-journalism companies looking for editors or marketing people. I was running low on faith that the industry had anything for me anymore. I had been beat up and turned out by journalism and I wasn’t sure I could go back in.

After returning, I’m not so sure. I realize I do have a perspective that isn’t out there.

I am an Asian American woman, who happens to love being a journalist and happens to love the web. That is rare.

There are other journalists who are doing it. There are other web folk that are pushing the envelope and I had several really positive discussions on the future of the web. I also had some bad discussions with recruiters and editors who did not really like the web.

I may have regained my faith. There are not many of us, but we are there. We can change the way journalism works and we can do it while maintaining and hopefully gaining diversity in newsrooms. I realize that I am rare and that if I leave, there will be one less minority view in the media, something desperately needed.

As budget have shrank, no one thinks about minorities. There are few internships anymore and the larger fellowship programs have mostly been cut. My company made the mistake of laying off a young, fresh, talented minority journalist and I had more than one person totally agree that it was a poor decision.

I want to try to make a difference and I don’t need a byline to make it. I can do it by helping newspapers figure out the web.

I hope this feeling lasts.

5 Thoughts.

  1. You rock. Way to get out there and make a full realization of all these crazy dynamics, happening simultaneously like an earthquake on top of a meltdown. Looking forward to see where you land.

  2. the internet is hurting newspapers financially, as print readers migrate to online, taking their financial support away while expecting all the same, high quality journalism for free. on the other hand, the internet is great for journalism, giving newspapers’ reach never before imaginable. it’s a very odd paradox, and newspapers are still trying to figure out how to put out the same product without hardly any revenue, all while trying to figure out what they can monetize to make up for what they’re losing. it’s a crazy math problem, and one that isn’t easily answerable, but by getting rid of people like you, not only will their businesses continue to suffer (staff cuts are a very short-term solution to an overwhelming problem), the journalism suffers too. and what’s a newspaper without journalism? i hope this feeling lasts for you too, because there will always be newspapers that knew this all along, and when all the other ceos figure it out, they’re sure to come begging too. business models may fail, but journalism will always have a place, and you’ll always have a place with journalism.

  3. Doesn’t “hopefully gaining diversity in newsrooms” really mean “hopefully reducing the number of white people in newsrooms”? Do you not see anything inherently racist in a conference for journalists who have nothing in common except for the irrelevant fact that their skin is not white?

    “My company made the mistake of laying off a young, fresh, talented minority journalist” Which of those adjectives made the dismissal a mistake? Which is not germane to the person’s ability to do the job?

    As long as you insist on being a minority journalist you will always be just that and nothing more. Try instead to be a journalist.

  4. i think you’re missing my point here, James. I’ve never argued that just because I’m a minority, I should be valued. I should be valued because I am talented and interested in the web.

    I am upset by newspapers who define me as just another brown face in the room. I do not want to be hired because I am a minority.

    However, as a minority, I think things are different. You can’t say that racism and ignorance do not exist, even now. A paper I formally worked for once said that we should go out and talk to all the black people we can about Barack Obama. As in, chase them down the street. “Hey brown person! What do you think about this other brown fella?”

    I was upset and made my point known. I’ve also pointed out that adding in minorities into a story for the sole sake of quoting more minorities is ridiculous.

    I am a journalist first and foremost. But I cannot and will not deny the fact that as an Asian American, and do see the world a bit differently.

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