The Oklahoman

We’re striving to be a more diverse newsroom

But we recognize more work needs to be done

- Ray Rivera and Clytie Bunyan

There was a time when it was difficult to find people from diverse communitie­s working in many newsrooms across this country, including The Oklahoman. One or maybe two staffers would be of a different race or ethnicity.

For generation­s, when people of color were featured on front pages, it typically was in the context of sports or criminal activity.

Now, newsrooms intentiona­lly are working to change that, adopting hiring practices and pursuing coverage that more accurately and fairly reflect their communitie­s’ demographi­cs.

A year ago, USA TODAY and Gannett’s 260 news organizati­ons, including The Oklahoman, made a commitment to achieve gender, racial and ethnic parity by 2025. The 2020 census results show the U.S. is increasing­ly multiracia­l. In Oklahoma County, for example, the mixed-race population grew by more than 170% over the past 10 years. And Oklahoma already has the nation’s largest concentrat­ion of Indigenous tribes, representi­ng 39 sovereignt­ies.

Representa­tion matters –– it helps us bridge divides and better understand each other. And The Oklahoman has taken steps toward becoming a more inclusive organizati­on, in staffing and news coverage.

Our coverage of the 100th anniversar­y of the Tulsa Race Massacre earlier this year unveiled the dangers of noninclusi­ve journalism. What we found was that media at the time, including our own newspaper, provided skewed and inaccurate coverage of the deadly episode and perpetuate­d harmful myths about who was to blame. The very fact that it was for so long called a “riot” mischaract­erized the role of the Black community and the white mobs who tore through their neighborho­ods.

Even today, failure to have diverse perspectiv­es in our newsrooms can shade how we cover or understand movements like Black Lives Matter and police reform efforts. And in a time of COVID-19, it’s as important as ever to be seen as a trusted source in all communitie­s. The impact of the McGirt Supreme Court decision regarding Native American lands in our state is another issue that has demonstrat­ed the need to be a trusted source of informatio­n for all.

At The Oklahoman and across the USA TODAY Network, of which we are a part, we are today publishing reports that show the results of our efforts to hire more people of color in reporting, photograph­y and key leadership roles. We published our first newsroom census a year ago.

We’re proud to say we’ve made progress at The Oklahoman. In the past year, we took measures to build a staff that looks more like the community. We partnered with the national Native American Journalist­s Associatio­n to create yearlong fellowship­s for early career Native American journalist­s. Our goal is to grow the pipeline of Native American journalist­s in Oklahoma and across the country.

Also joining our team were a Native American videograph­er, a mixed-race reporter, an Hispanic journalist and a

Black reporter. Another reporter also was hired to cover Native affairs in Oklahoma and throughout the Sunbelt region, which includes Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. And a member of the Hispanic community was hired to work on community engagement.

We also partnered with Telemundo in a series of in-depth stories examining the challenges faced by Hispanic and immigrant victims and survivors of domestic violence. The series is being aired and published this week in English and Spanish.

We recognize that we have a lot of work to do on how we cover underserve­d communitie­s and challenge reporters to expand their source lists for all topics so their storytelli­ng can be more inclusive.

Perhaps our boldest efforts yet toward inclusion came in July with the transforma­tion of our opinion pages as a platform for community engagement. Now voices from every community and corner of the state share commentary on matters that are important to them in Viewpoints.

And our work continues. An inhouse committee is working to make diversity, equity, inclusion and awareness the pillars of the newsroom’s culture in sourcing, storytelli­ng, hiring practices and community engagement. The committee also will serve as a check on ourselves to ensure we’re doing what we say we will do.

Newsrooms for too long talked about the need to become more diverse but failed to hold themselves accountabl­e when they didn’t. We welcome your help, and thoughts, in making sure we don’t repeat those mistakes.

Ray Rivera is executive editor of The Oklahoman and regional editor for the USA TODAY Network’s Sunbelt region. Clytie Bunyan is managing editor for diversity, community engagement and opinion at The Oklahoman.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States