Diversifying Journalism

July 31, 2012

Now in its 31st year, the Journalism Diversity Workshop for Arizona High School Students teaches journalism skills and ethics to students from diverse communities. In addition to sharpening skills in reporting, interviewing, blogging and editing copy and video, the Workshop aims to promote diversity in the nation's newsrooms.

During a 10-day stay at the University of Arizona, 15 students cover news, issues and trends throughout Tucson for a blog while also producing a 12-page newspaper, The Chronicle. Students are taught by UA professors and working professionals, and each participant is paired with a current UA journalism student who acts as a mentor.

More People Telling More Stories

One of the goals of the program is to increase diversity in American journalism by reaching out to populations underrepresented in the field today, says John de Dios, a professional journalist and UA alumnus who has served as the Workshop's director seven times.

However, the program's ultimate goal is to teach students that "part of our duty as journalists is to represent our communities as best as possible," de Dios says. "To do so, we must try to reach all the members of our communities, not just the ones who are the loudest."

That task falls to all journalists, not only those who are in some way outside the mainstream. Ultimately, journalism benefits from diversity on both sides of the equation, de Dios says. In fact, the Journalism Diversity Workshop dropped the word "minorities" from its title in the mid 2000s to reach as diverse a group of students as possible.

Learning from Leaders in the Industry

In addition, guest lecturers engage participants on important topics in professional journalism through Skype conversations and presentations. In 2012, guest lecturers addressing the topic "What Diversity Means to Me" included:

  • Jimmy Boegle, editor of the Tucson Weekly and diversity chair for the Association of Alternative Newsmedia

  • Sarah Garrecht Gassen, an editor with the Arizona Daily Star, who presented on disabilities and journalism

  • Teresa Jun, a local news anchor and reporter and co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association-Arizona chapter

  • Michele Salcedo, an editor with The Associated Press and president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

This year's Workshop also explored the rights of student journalists as they navigate the authority of instructors, administrators, school districts and other bodies, and a look at how journalism has traditionally represented — or misrepresented — people with disabilities.

Inspiring Confidence & Professionalism

De Dios, who also mentors emerging journalists through the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, says that one of the most satisfying outcomes of the kind of training delivered through the UA program is increased confidence in student journalists.

"As soon as they set foot on the UA campus, we scratch the "student" part out of "student journalists" and they are just "journalists," de Dios says, treated with equally high respect and expectations. The transformative power of that relationship is profound, even in a short period of time, and students leave the Workshop with a new level of self-possession, many of them having already started new channels of professional work in personal blogs or other outlets.

"It makes you proud to see these young people who 10 days before were not even confident enough to ask a question be more bold and willing to go out and talk to people. Seeing that kind of confidence at work is — " and here, de Dios struggles for a word equal to the task — "well, awesome."

The 2012 Journalism Diversity Workshop for Arizona High School Students was funded by the Dow Jones News Fund and sponsored by the UA School of Journalism along with Concerned Media Professionals, the UA Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Asian American Journalists Association, which funded $300 in cash prizes for two outstanding stories produced through this year's program.

More information on the Workshop, including examples of student work, can be found at the Journalism Diversity Workshop Faceook page at https://www.facebook.com/djnfchronicle.