Saturday, October 25, 2003

Notes on Diversity in Editing

Problem is, no handout really bores down into people's souls and makes them "sensitive." We can make people more pleasant to deal with on a daily basis (a plus in any case). We can raise awareness of sticky issues. But a snazzy list does a disservice to the concept.

Look, I finished reading Carl Hiaasen's "Basket Case" this evening. Toward the end, he makes a funny quip about a newsroom diversity committee. The group's single recommendation, he writes, was always that the paper hire fewer white people.

The point sticks. Until papers in this country have newsrooms -- and copy desks -- that reflect the populations covered, all the diversity training in the world won't solve our problems.

I mean no disrespect to the efforts under way across the country, at newspapers big and small. But much of ensuring diversity boils down to finding the stories and having the people who can tell them effectively. That is, news judgment. What papers do every day.

We can write lists. We can argue about "queer" versus "gay" versus "homosexual." We can argue about "black" and "African-American."

But the lists don't solve the problem. They barely address it.