#FOCUSRACIALJUSTICE: EDITORIAL: Racial Equity in Journalism

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Published May 11, 2021
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The Montclarion
Ian Long | The Montclarion

Over the past year, calls for reform to promote racial equity and hold perpetrators of racial prejudice accountable have taken public conversation in the United States and beyond by storm. Elected officials, corporations, entertainment studios and others in positions of power have all dealt with these new standards of representation and community involvement under an intense magnifying glass.

Just like public officials, companies whose business dealings affect the lives of citizens, or creators who produce a movie or TV show, should reflect the makeup of their populace. It follows that the journalism industry should strive for the same representation.

Last summer, employees at the Los Angeles Times spoke out against the newspaper’s executive editor, Norman Pearlstine, who resigned from his position thereafter. The owner of the LA Times, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, published an essay he wrote acknowledging the concerns of his staff and vowed to establish significant change.

Nearly a year later, the LA Times has selected a new executive editor: Kevin Merida, a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists whose experience spans over three decades, including positions as a managing editor at The Washington Post and editor-in-chief of the ESPN sports blog, The Undefeated.

But at The Washington Post, Merida was the first Black managing editor to hold the position. While this is certainly a significant step forward, it was still long overdue.

The Montclarion is not exempt from this criticism either.

The Montclarion’s editorial staff is made up of three members on the executive board and 11 section editors, each with their own assistant editors and respective staff writers and contributors. Of those 28 positions, only four are occupied by nonwhite students.

Given the rich racial and ethnic diversity at Montclair State University, that number is far too small and absolutely not a fair reflection of the student body The Montclarion serves.

In the fall 2020 semester, The Montclarion published an editorial on the importance of student journalism and the invaluable role student involvement plays as a source of checks and balances to hold university administrators, faculty, staff and the student body itself accountable for their actions.

In that editorial, a quote reads, “This is because there is no one better to inform you of your community than a fellow member of your community.” The same rings true in regards to topics of race-related struggles.

Is a white journalist involved enough with any particular racial or ethnic community to identify problems facing that community? Are they educated enough to report on those issues clearly, with sensitivity, empathy and soundness?

This is not to say that anyone’s race automatically qualifies them for any position. When the topic of representation is presented, a counter is often made, claiming that handouts should not be given and everyone should be given an equal opportunity. But this argument fails to acknowledge the myriad inequalities still present in our society. Unfortunately, equal opportunities remain an aspiration, not a reality.

Genuine outreach to people of different backgrounds is not a “handout.” It is a key step toward establishing an effective workforce and a supportive work environment for all.

The Montclarion welcomes and encourages all Montclair State students to contribute to their student voice publication. Diversification of our staff will only make us more valuable to the community we serve.

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