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open-meetings laws : State and federal laws, often called sunshine laws, guaranteeing access to meetings of public officials. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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Teaching Tips

We are collecting tips from high school newspaper advisers nationwide on how to run student publications and deal with the issues from administrators, students and parents.

Multicultural Reporting: Diversity in News Coverage

Multicultural Reporting: Diversity in News Coverage

By Clarence J. Cotton Jr., Department of Mass Media Arts, Hampton University

Mediated images of underrepresented group members are especially powerful given the quality and quantity of portrayals. Some scholars believe media texts create separate worlds for different racial/ethnic groups. Journalism must embrace the diversity of modern society. Acknowledgement of this diversity will allow journalists to more accurately report on the communities they cover. Below are some suggestions for increasing the variety of sources in your high school newspapers.

  1. Provide consistent coverage
    Do the sources used in your high school newspaper reflect the diversity on the school and community on an ongoing basis? If not, what can be done to provide consistent coverage
  2. Have your staff learn about the communities they cover
    If reporters are writing about clubs and organizations have them attend meetings, fundraisers and other activities. This will allow the reporter to get a sense of the people that make up this community.
  3. Have staff develop contacts with members of the school’s various cultures
    Thus, when diverse opinions are necessary for context or understanding the student newspaper can tap contacts.
  4. Mainstream sources for all stories
    Help your staff understand that “expert” sources come in both genders, a variety of shades and numerous cultural backgrounds. Use of various expert sources will help young reporter realize that expertise comes in a variety of packages
  5. Recognize that there is diversity within cultures
    Sources speak only for themselves. One voice does not make a community.
  6. Bring your own perspective to the newsroom
    Staff member must realize that they bring valuable perspectives to the newsroom. Encourage open discussion about how stories should be handled.

Attempts at the high school level for more inclusive coverage of the diversity of the school community will bring new voices and perspectives to the student newspaper. Advisers and administrators are encouraged to establish an atmosphere of open exchange and discovery. Diversity is not only about racial identity; it includes political, social, cultural and economic dimensions. Itule and Anderson offer some helpful guidelines for journalists as they move to become more inclusive in their reporting and writing. Ask all staff members of the student newspaper to consider the following points while composing each issue.

  1. Have I covered the story with sensitivity, accuracy, fairness and balance to all of the people involved?
  2. What are the likely consequences of publication? Who will be hurt and who will be helped?
  3. Have I sought a diversity of sources for this story?
  4. Am I seeking true diversity or using tokenism by allowing one person to represent a community or point of view?
  5. Have I allowed preconceived ideas to limit my efforts to include diversity?
  6. Am I flexible about the possibility that the focus of the story may change when different source are included?
  7. Have I developed a source list that includes “non-traditional” expert sources?
  8. Have I spent time in different communities and with residents to find out what people are thinking and to learn more about lifestyles, perspectives, customs, etc. ?
  9. Have I written about achievements on their own merits, rather than as “stereotype breakers”?
  10. Have I guarded against using code words to describe minority groups and neighborhoods?
  11. As I seek diversity, am I being true to my duties and responsibilities as a journalist?
  12. Am I able to explain my decisions clearly and honestly to anyone who challenges it, and not rationalize?

Bibliography

  • Gray, H. (1995). “Watching race: Television and the struggle for ‘Blackness.’ ” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Itule, B. & Anderson, D. (2002). “Newswriting and Reporting for Today’s Media.” New York: McGraw Hill.
  • Orbe, M. & Harris, T. (2001). “Interracial Communication: Theory into Practice.” Stamford, Conn.: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning