Saturday, July 05, 2008

Premature Panic on Minority Jobs?

This week the National Association of Black Journalists, of which I am a member, issued a strongly worded statement -- an open letter to those in the newspaper industry.

"Let this serve as an open letter to the entire industry: NABJ will hold you accountable if you do not consider diversity in your hiring and, particularly, firing practices," the statement read.

Issued the day before the 4th of July holiday, the statement probably has yet to be read by many who have been away for the holiday.

But, will it make a REAL difference? So what the NABJ will hold you accountable.

What about my fellow colleagues in the electronic media? Any day now, the Radio-Television News Directors Association will release its annual diversity census.

A year ago, that census showed overall minority employment in radio and television newsrooms had dropped back to 21.5 percent (from 22.2 percent the year before).

But, the number of black journalists in radio and TV increased.

Will we see the same thing this year? Is the crisis just far worse for newspapers and that's why the NABJ hit the panic button, sounded the alarm or whatever other cliche we want to use?

It seems to me that the NABJ and other sister organizations in the UNITY group-- NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA-- should get a fuller picture of the industry before sounding such an alarm. The strategies used to get the attention of those at the nation's newspapers may have to change. Perhaps this is a topic that will be discussed at the upcomign UNITY Journalists Quadrennial convention in Chicago.

Perhaps it's the organizations' memberships that will have to change. Maybe more of the newspaper/print journalists will have re-tool or re-make themselves to be more multimedia in this multimedia age. I realize this is an ongoing discussion. But, I just have to believe that change from WITHIN may be just as important as change outside of minority journalism groups.

It's a different day, a different time. The tools we use to diversify the media industry have to be different as well.

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