BY DEZIMEY KUM
On Oct. 23 students and faculty gathered in the Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater for a panel discussion on the role of diversity in media, hosted by the Student Media Board. The discussion was moderated by sophomore Chloe Li and junior Sophie Austin, both majoring in Journalism.
The discussion featured five panelists: Brandon Benavides (NBC4), Tracy Jarrett (Vice), Moriah Balingit (Washington Post), Chris Gunn (NASA) and Letese' Clark (WAMU). Each panelist offered their own experiences and perspectives regarding having diverse voices in the newsroom and their contributions to the media landscape.
A recurring topic throughout the discussion was how long diversity has been a conversation in newsrooms across the country. "Hiring more people of color, and also promoting people of color in newsrooms is very critical," said Balingit. "You can have a very diverse staff, but if they don't feel like they have a voice or an ally, it doesn't really matter."
Balingit told many stories about the discrimination she has faced being an Asian-American journalist. "I worked in a very toxic newsroom at one point, where people will make jokes at the expense of me being Asian, or make comments about women. I was not getting opportunities that I saw some of my white-male colleagues getting who were at the same skill level."
In a recent article by The New York Times, Balingit shared on how to deal with discrimination not just in the newsroom or in a legal way, "but just in an emotional/ psychological way."
Moderators asked panelists if they have ever considered leaving journalism. Jarrett said, "I haven't considered leaving journalism, but I've been challenged to think about how do we expand what journalism looks like and feels like, and the skills you need to get that."
Such issues regarding the lack of diversity in the media continues to be a prominent discussion in today's society. News stories and other media outlets have shed light on the challenges of people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ face in the media industries, as well as how these challenges have been addressed and can be resolved.
For Benavides, the key to promoting diversity is about having allies in management. "It's important that allies understand the importance of having diversity in the newsroom." He recounted his experiences working for NBC, and how the diversity amongst his colleagues reshaped his overall journalistic thought process.
"Be the voice for your community," said Balingit. "All of us are from diverse backgrounds...what we decide to put on the air, it reflects the communities we cover."