Mayor Lightfoot’s Call Out for Media Diversity Didn’t Have to Look Like a Stunt
As President Lyndon Johnson’s Kerner Commission — named after its chairman, Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner — said in response to urban riots in February 1968, media was a major part of the problem moving our nation “toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal,” when media should be part of the solution.
Besides inadequate coverage, the commission declared, “the journalistic profession has been shockingly backward in seeking out, hiring and promoting Negroes,” using the socially operative term for Black folks at the time.
It was my good fortune to graduate the next year from journalism school into a job market that suddenly, largely in response to urban unrest, had become unusually welcoming to racial diversity. It was the tail end of an era when major print and broadcast newsrooms were as all-white as the cast of “His Girl Friday,” to name one of my Hollywood favorites from the typewriter era. I had to pick my role models where I could find them.
Things obviously have gotten much better, but we still have a ways to go to achieve parity, an industrywide effort that has been further complicated by the economic turbulence and other seismic changes in the internet era.
Newsroom diversity remains far below the goal the American Society of News Editors set in 1978 “of minority employment by the year 2000 equivalent to the percentage of minority persons within the national population.”
So, as much as I dislike the mayor’s ham-handed timing, I applaud her giving attention to the issue. Now, anytime you need advice on how to run the city, Madam Mayor, I’m here.
(E-mail Clarence Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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