In an effort to appeal to minorities, President Bush agreed to speak to the “UNITY: Journalists of Color 2004 Convention,” scheduled for early August in Washington, D.C. One understands the politics of such an appearance but the Big Media backing of this extravaganza cannot be rationalized. There is no excuse for hanging on to the discredited concept of “diversity” in journalism. And yet that was advertised as a big theme of this conference.
The concept of “diversity” has been devastating to journalism. It produced the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times, in which a young black reporter was hired and promoted despite his obvious failures. The result was a massive plagiarism and fakery scandal. The paper that is supposed to publish “all the news that’s fit to print” had to apologize, launch an investigation, and publish a series of corrections. But it still remains committed to “diversity.”
Blair was involved with the National Association of Black Journalists, which plays a key role in the “Journalists of Color” convention and featured a speech by hate-monger Louis Farrakhan several years ago. Other participating groups are the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association. It seems like only a matter of time before the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association becomes a member.
By focusing on mere membership in ethnic or minority groups, “diversity” has been perverted. What is really needed is ideological or philosophical diversity. A recent study from the Pew Center on the small number of conservatives in journalism demonstrates this need. Fred Barnes has pointed out that the media push for phony diversity has actually resulted in the hiring of more liberals, albeit from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The result is that the public is turning away from the so-called mainstream news media for news and information. So diversity is really a death wish for Big Media.
But the allure of being politically correct and committed to diversity is too fashionable and attractive to many in the media. Gannett, parent company of USA Today, has been a big backer of diversity for decades. Its preoccupation with hiring people with different skin colors may have been a factor in letting USA Today reporter Jack Kelley get away with massive fabrications over a period of many years. Kelley was not a minority, but the editors seemed to be more concerned with diversity in hiring than in monitoring what their reporters were writing and reporting. It requires counting the number of minorities in a newsroom and then comparing their numbers to percentages in the surrounding population.
To their credit, one of the workshops at the “Journalists of Color” convention concerned “Ethics in Today’s Media: Is the Public right to Distrust their News?” The panel was supposed to include “a brief account of the rising public distrust of the so-called ‘mainstream’ press.” The group would be well advised to examine how diversity has contributed to the problem that continues to threaten the reputation and future of their own news organizations.