When students of color head toward college, they are bombarded with phrases of encouragement. It’s the fluffed up speeches that are given at orientation, the people-of-color driven ceremonies and the cheesy letters written by chancellors and deans that delude them with mentions of finding successful careers after gaining their diploma.
It’s all those words that convince students to reach higher, only to realize they are grasping at empty promises.
If there’s anything more disheartening than the tough labor of breaking through class and racial barriers in the academic field, it is the lack of rewards found at the other side of it. For journalism students of diverse backgrounds, it is the lack of employment and opportunity in newsrooms outside of their campus.
Facing constant rejection by major news publications, it’s as if all the progress of getting through an uneven playing field was sent back to square one. All of the late hours of meeting deadlines, editing and calling sources for the hundredth time and dreading possible mistakes just to now sit by a laptop and wait for change to come around.
It’s time for those changes to come into play before it’s too late for both newsprint journalism and journalists themselves.
After putting up with more than three decades of racial maltreatment, neglect and unjust marginalization, the Black and Latino Caucuses under the Los Angeles Times Guild have decided to come forward and deliver a well-deserved verdict for the L.A. Times newspaper — it has failed to commit to confronting racism within and outside the walls of its newsroom.
On June 23, the Black Caucus wrote a letter full of righteous criticism and a list of demands, with the Latino Caucus and journalism educators in the California State Universities following suit with their own lists of demands on July 21.
All three letters were delivered to the owner of the L.A. Times, San Diego Union-Tribune and other news organizations, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who had purchased the newspapers in 2018.
These letters not only highlight the need to hire more journalists of color or for formal apologies that frankly would not do much progress in itself, they also stress the potential these changes could bring to the current state of journalism.
Looking for stable jobs in journalism is like searching for a bountiful oasis in a barren desert.
While the world evolves into more refined technology, so does the format for news media, as broadcast television and digital-native news publications push newspapers out of the job market.
So, how can the decline of the newspaper industry and the lack of employment opportunities be saved? It’s simple — hire Black and Latino journalists who reflect the population of the county and reshape coverage that reaches further into communities of color.
Hire graduates who don’t come from better-resourced institutions, but from public universities like the CSUs. Hire student journalists whose backgrounds better represent the ever-changing demographics of California.
“Build a newsroom that reflects the demographics of L.A. County, where Latinos are nearly 50% of the population,” states the Latino Caucus in the list of demands. “To start, we ask for a pledge that you hire enough Latino journalists to, at a minimum, meet the county’s demographics halfway within a period of five years.”
The L.A. Times and newspapers alike can’t afford to continue this outdated pattern of exclusivity that has kept newsrooms mostly white. They cannot expect to keep readers of different communities around when stories written by white journalists don’t reflect their unique experiences.
No one says it better than the Black Caucus of the L.A. Times Guild:
“Often, our framing and selection of stories is designed mostly with a white audience in mind at the expense of communities of color. Our coverage must capture the nuance and complexity, in particular, of the Black community. That starts with listening to reporters.”