On Diversity, or Lack Thereof, in Media Criticism and Newsrooms

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The Poynter Institute, a journalism-education organization, announced this week it hired Andrew Beaujon as a reporter to cover the media, taking over where Jim Romenesko left off. Beaujon (who is a former colleague of mine from TBD) said he plans to devote more coverage to ethnic media outlets than is seen in today’s current media criticism.

“It’s barely covered at all,” he told DCentric. “If you read about, say, [black newspaper] the Chicago Defender, it’s only ever about its financial troubles. And I’m certainly interested in that, but I’m also curious about how those papers and websites connect with their communities.”

Although Beaujon plans to report on ethnic media, the appointment of another white man as a prominent media critic inspired Washington City Paper‘s Shani Hilton to ask: is media criticism a white boys’ club? She lists off prominent media critics including Howard Kurtz, Erik Wemple, Richard Prince, Jack Shafer and David Carr, all of whom, except for one, is a white man. (Another exception is Eric Deggans, Wemple notes).

The lack of diversity among prominent media critics is somewhat reflected in print media outlets. In 2011, racial minorities made up 12.79 percent of newspaper newsrooms, a decline of about half a percent from the previous year, according to the American Society of News Editors newsroom census.

But while it’s easy to measure the diversity, or lack thereof, in a newsroom, gauging diversity coverage is a different matter. Hiring more minority reporters can help improve coverage of minority communities, but it doesn’t guarantee it. News judgement decisions aren’t always left up to reporters; editors and managers are also involved. And not all minority journalists want to only cover their own ethnic communities. On the flip side, a white journalist can aim to improve coverage of minority issues. Which is what Beaujon appears to want to do.

Which D.C. Ward Has The ‘Ideal’ Racial Make-Up?

Lamenting over D.C.’s changing mix of residents (read: more white people, less black people) have raised some questions: isn’t this just increased diversity? And isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?

Courtland Milloy included this interesting point in a Tuesday column:

“Surveys show that when asked, blacks, on average, say the ‘ideal’ neighborhood racial composition would be about 30 to 35 percent black,” said Roderick J. Harrison, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Howard University.

Why? Because blacks derive significant benefits from living among middle-class white people, such as better city services, better schools and higher-quality stores.

Moreover, 30 percent is large enough for blacks to create a comfort zone that blunts the effects of white prejudice but small enough not to trigger white flight.

A 2009 study by researchers at New York University noted that “the strongest predictor of resistance to racial integration among whites is prejudice, whereas the strongest predictor of black avoidance of white neighborhoods is fear of discrimination.”

Flickr: Bill McNeal

Ward 1, which includes neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights, is D.C.'s most racially diverse area.

So which D.C. neighborhoods most reflect this “ideal mix?” It seems Ward 1 comes closest; although no one group maintains a majority there, 40.8 percent of residents are white, 31.5 percent are black and 20.8 percent are Hispanic or Latino. As for the socioeconomic makeup of the ward, 41 percent of households make $75,000 or more a year; 28 percent make $35,000 to $74,999 a year; and 31 percent make below $34,999.

But you still have to live in the neighborhood in order to derive the benefits that more whites and richer people bring. Nordlie1, a commenter on a DCentric post explaining why so many black residents have left D.C., writes:

“Losing a majority (of black folks) ” “More diverse (white folks)” = (politically correct:) gentrification. All the same. Bad thing when it displaces poor black people.

Why so many black residents left D.C. and Marion Barry on diversity

D.C. Councilman Marion Barry (Ward 8 ) spoke with Michel Martin on NPR’s Tell Me More program today about D.C.’s dropping black population. Martin tried to get Barry to explain his call to stop gentrification as quoted in a Washington Post article from last week.

Flickr: Tom Bridge

The exchange itself is worth a listen, but here are some choice moments:

“What gentrification does is that it displaces longtime residents, longtime people who have been here 10, 20, 25 years and have been renters,” Barry said.

Barry also mentioned that “the Hispanic population grew by 9 percent and we welcome that kind of growth, but this city and other cities have to deal with gentrification.” He goes on to say that “white people… are displacing African American renters, gentrifying the city. I’m not afraid to speak up and say that’s something we have got to deal with.”

Later, Martin tells Barry “what’s interesting about your perspective here is that you were elected initially as part of a multicultural campaign. With your initial campaign you had strong support from a number of multiracial communities, including the gay community which often has been on the leading edge of revitalizing neighborhoods that have previously been in disrepair. So for some people, it’s why all of a sudden now you’re critical of the very people who supported you initially.”

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Census 2010: Segregation in D.C.

Can’t get enough of the latest 2010 U.S. Census Bureau statistics? Us neither. Salon.com has a slide show out today showing the country’s most segregated large metropolitan areas, which led us to ask: where does D.C. rank on that list? The short answer: No. 38.

Now, for the longer answer: the ranking from the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan measures white-black segregation for the entire D.C.-metro area, which in this case includes large swaths of Northern Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, an area totaling nearly 5.6 million people. And those suburbs have a lot of people — Montgomery County alone has nearly 1 million residents, which outnumbers the District’s approximate 600,000 residents. And some of those suburbs are more thoroughly integrated than the District, where the 2010 Census data shows that Wards 7 and 8 are largely black and Wards 2 and 3 maintain white majorities.

Take a look at Eric Fischer’s updated racial and ethnic distribution maps and you will see that by-and-large, there remains stark segregation between white and black residents in D.C., meanwhile there are many areas with strong integration patterns in the outlying suburban counties.

D.C. Census map

Flickr: Eric Fischer

Map of racial and ethnic divisions in US cities, inspired by Bill Rankin's map of Chicago, updated for Census 2010. Red dots represents whites, blue represents blacks, green represents Asian, orange represents Hispanics and Latinos and yellow represents some other race. Each dot is 25 residents. Data from Census 2010. Base map © OpenStreetMap, CC-BY-SA.

The Population Studies Center compiled data that is used to determine just how segregated our country’s major metropolitan areas are, places with populations exceeding 500,000. The ranking — a dissimilarity index — ranges from zero, complete integration, through 100, complete segregation. What the ranking really measures is the percentage of people of one race who would have to move in order to create a more even distribution.

Now, for some good news: the D.C.-metro area has less white-black segregation now than it did back in 2000, according to the index. But the rate of white-black integration slowed by nearly half between 2000 and 2010 when compared to the previous decade.

Check out the white-black segregation rankings for the country’s 108 largest metropolitan areas:

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Bell Multicultural High School Welcomes Obama for Town Hall on DREAM Act, Education

Flickr: United States Government Work

No wonder Irving Street was blocked off this morning! The President visited Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights, for a town hall meeting on education that will air tonight on Univision. The Chancellor for D.C. schools, Kaya Henderson was also there, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Juan Sepulveda, head of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

According to pool reports, the President was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from students and parents as he took the stage. The President answered questions from the audience and via pre-taped video about the role of parents in education, the DREAM act, technology and more. However, the first question, from the event’s moderator, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, was about Libya. The President briefly answered that U.S. involvement there would be limited before adding that he would address the issue later tonight (tune in to WAMU 88.5 at 7 p.m., for NPR’s full coverage of the event).

After watching a video question from a female student who was holding up a deportation letter, the President said that he strongly supports the DREAM Act: “We’ve got to keep the pressure up on Congress”. Obama stated that it was not appropriate to give undocumented workers “temporary protected status” and he clarified that it was not possible to suspend deportations by executive order.

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Funding Diversity Through NPR

Flickr: NC in DC

The mothership, on Mass Ave. WAMU is up in Tenleytown, if you were wondering.

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 1076, which would take federal funding away from NPR and prohibit local stations from using such money to acquire ANY programming. While reading this message on WAMU’s website, something else struck me about this issue– how it will impact diversity:

This issue affects a much larger population than only WAMU 88.5 and our Washington community. If H.R. 1076 becomes law, many local public radio stations, particularly those in rural areas, would have difficulty continuing to provide the news and public affairs programs that millions of Americans rely on every day.

Diverse voices are also at stake. This bill would affect the ability of stations to access Native Voice 1, the Native American Radio Service. It would impact the work of the Latino Public Radio Consortium and the African American Public Radio Consortium, which create and distribute programs that showcase those diverse perspectives that mainstream public radio wants and needs to hear.

When I was at Public Media Camp last year, I heard a speaker mention that in some rural areas, public radio is the only source of culturally-diverse or international news and programming. At a time when newspapers around the country are shrinking, if not closing, that’s a sobering thought. If H.R. 1076 passes, who will be silenced? And how would that impact all of us?

One Station, Many Voices


Today’s WAMU commentary is from Joel Carela, who is part of WAMU’s Youth Voices program in partnership with Youth Radio and D.C’s Latin American Youth Center.

I’ve always been put off by TV shows and movies that glorify casual sex. Like the “American Pie” movies, whose main characters are always in search of a quick and easy hook-up. They make the guys who can separate sex and emotions seem normal and emasculate the ones who develop feelings beyond the mattress.

As an emotional person, I never liked that message — but I guess somehow it seeped into my brain.

Last fall, I started college and moved into a dorm with more than 100 other hormonal teenagers. Suddenly, we had easy access to all sorts of things that were out of reach back home: alcohol, drugs and each other.

It wasn’t long before I started to connect really well with a guy in my international politics class, who also happened to live across the hall. We shared an affinity for baroque-era choral music and an interest in the British monarchy.

You can listen to it, here.
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