6 takeaways from “black NPR journalists in calculating a newsroom”
Three black journalists have weighed in on the math unfolding in newsrooms across the country as they strive to amplify black voices and representation both internally and externally.
NPR’s Ari Shapiro did a meeting with Dorothy Tucker, President of National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and an investigative journalist with SCS Chicago; Astead Herndon, national political reporter for the New York Times (NYT); and Keith Woods, NPR diversity director and longtime print journalist.
Here are five takeaways from the interview.
Black journalists across the country are rising up to fight inequality in newsrooms.
Pointing out that many newsrooms have predominantly white management, Tucker said there were “firestorms literally across the country” in newsrooms.
“I have heard from so many of our members in small towns, in big cities, in the print media and on television. They all stand up and basically say we want our voices to be heard; that’s enough, ”Tucker said. “They all get together and go to their white managers – mostly white and say that’s what we’ve been through; that’s what we need to tackle.
Herndon echoed Tucker’s comments, noting how Ida B. Wells was described as a “mulatto” and a “racialist” in the obituary written by The Times for bravely writing from Blakc’s point of view.
“The way we see now, she was sort of clearly describing, in particular, the lynchings in the way the white media didn’t see. I think that has been, historically, the role of black journalists, and it’s the kind of tradition that a lot of black journalists identify with, ”Herndon said.
Woods said the momentum seen today is largely due to young journalists who refuse to wait for the status quo to change at the head of the movement.
“It’s different, Ari, and I think it’s different from the way the country feels different right now, beyond the newsrooms,” Woods said. “I think that motivation that we see in the newsrooms comes, in large measure, from young journalists who don’t have the patience to wait for the country or the news organizations to understand it.”
For too long, the media have used objectivity as a pretext for a “white path is the right path” standard.
They also discussed how objectivity in journalism often equates to the way whites do things, how current events affect the mental and emotional health of black journalists and are classified in a black-only beat.
Woods said that “objectivity has been used as a mask for all the dominant views present and operating in our organizations, regardless of race, gender and sexuality. It has been a lie since the day it was first spoken simply because we are human beings and we couldn’t do it… ”
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Tucker said she agreed with Woods, adding “that it is humanly impossible … to be objective. You bring to the table who you are. But as a reporter you are fair, and you are precise, and you are balanced.
Black journalists often find it difficult to be promoted because they are assigned to black rhythms with little room to grow.
Adding that black journalists are often unable to climb the ranks and gain widespread exposure because they are often confined to covering only black stories, Tucker challenged the news industry to do better.
“This is where racism comes in, Ari, for black journalists. Because we are black, it is assumed that we will do a better job covering the black community. So what is going on? We end up being cataloged. We end up covering most of the black stories, a lot of black crime, a lot of the black community then, ”Tucker said. “And we end up being marginalized. Also, it is difficult for black journalists to get the promotions they want, to gain experience in other rhythms and to develop other skills. So you have to be very careful. You know, you have – you keep defending yourself by saying, yeah, I might be the best, but don’t rank me.
Black journalists add more than their skin color and newsrooms need to recognize that.
When Shapiro asked how newsrooms can “strike a balance” between having diverse voices, but not leaving the tough job of race to black journalists, Herndon said they need to look at all aspects of identity. of a black journalist and what they can bring to the table, not just their race, to avoid “the insidious under-representation.”
“I was just in Tulsa for the president’s rally, and these things are so ingrained in race and whiteness and identity. And I think being a black journalist not only means that your background has allowed you to cover black people well, but also to understand how race and politics are at the forefront of people’s minds and not a kind of a side issue, ”Herndon said. .
Many black journalists are personally affected by the events that dominate the current news cycle.
They concluded by answering Shapiro’s question about what it feels like to be on the front line at this point in history.
Tucker said that many NABJ members were “in pain” and “going through trauma” because of the relevance of the stories to their lives, but they know that “our voices are important” so black journalists will continue to fight.
Herndon said he felt “vindicated” because of the many times he and his peers tried to convince white editors and supervisors “that this was the story”.
Black journalists, like black people in general, are tired.
Woods summed it up with something that has gone viral in recent months on social media: Black people are tired.
“If you’re trying to figure out why now, what’s the reason for this calculating moment in the news outlets of black journalists, it’s that fatigue. It’s that pain. It’s all of these things that people have been saying for decades as untrue that are now appearing in our lives and in our deaths across this country, pushing people, ”Woods said. “So yes, we are destroyed, I think. But you see the expression of it now on the streets of the country, and now you see it rising in our newsrooms. “