Regardless of political orientation, we can all agree that the news outlets feeding us our information are flawed. Journalism in the United States has consistently failed to serve the interests and needs of readers, and this trend is not new. Not only does modern journalism stray further and further from representing the true diversity of opinions and putting to use credible sources and facts, but the industry as a whole is severely lacking in diversity in its writers, staff and editorial boards.
While complaints frequently circulate about mainstream media dumbing itself down or publishing false news, we also need to look more closely at what factors might be making this situation worse. We need to acknowledge a gross lack of diversity in journalism and its dangerous consequences.
Perhaps the perfect example of this dates back to 2005, when reporters flocked to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and reported less on what they saw and more on what they perceived; consequently, horror stories of “looters” and “burglars” turned into a reality of persecution, violence and murder as vigilantes saw the newsreels and took to the streets with a vengeance. While it is easy to diminish these reporters as dramatic or seeking an enticing headline, it is more important to look at the ways in which their experiences as privileged individuals distorted their ability to critically reflect on the scene that unfolded.
Though the aftermath of Katrina surely represents an extreme case, diversity of opinion, experience and outlook are crucial to any news outlet. How can news outlets serve their readers with a nuanced depiction of events if each journalist they employ sees the world the same way?
We at The Brandeis Hoot have to rectify these same issues. We don’t want all of our writers to look at the Brandeis experience in the same way, and yet we continually attract writers of similar backgrounds and of similar mentalities. Brandeis lacks much diversity in its student body, and while The Hoot’s demographic largely parallels the Brandeis demographic, we strive to do better. To serve as the voice of an entire community, we cannot allow our editorial board and staff to underrepresent any of Brandeis’ student body, faculty and staff.
To rectify this persistent trend of underrepresentation, we are taking several important strides within the present Hoot staff that we hope will open a much-needed dialogue, allow for constructive criticism and tackle important obstacles to increasing the diversity of our staff and most importantly, of the content we produce.
We are curating a syllabus for all staff to read exploring race and journalism, similar to the Charleston Syllabus devised in the wake of the attack on a black Charleston church in June 2015. We hope to form a committee to read through a sample of past editions of The Hoot and address issues that may arise, especially focusing on articles we have written that relate to political, cultural or racial discussions on and around campus. Beginning this issue, we are running sidebars in Arts and Features that highlight various students on campus without the time commitment of writing a full article. We hope through this initiative to involve more people in the newspaper who otherwise might not find The Hoot accessible.
Journalism is an industry closed off to people without certain privileges, and we at The Hoot do not want to perpetuate this trend.