Working to fight for racial equity in a newsroom can take a toll on an already overworked journalist. Unfortunately, when a journalist of color leaves the profession, that leads to fewer stories on communities of color.
The murder of George Floyd and the racial uprising that followed inspired a similar uprising in newsrooms across the country. Journalists of color called out management for racist editorial practices. Many left the field in frustration. This is not new in the field of journalism.
In 2018, Emma Sapong left her job reporting for Minnesota Public Radio in favor of becoming a freelance multimedia journalist. Sapong says she initially got into journalism with the attitude that diversity and inclusion were essential to accurate coverage.
“…Get into these newsrooms and make sure, these communities that have been overlooked and not only just overlooked, but maligned for decades–I wanted to change that,” said Sapong. “So journalism for me from the beginning was setting the record straight and moving away from the stereotypical one dimensional coverage of people of color.”
In 2020, journalist Carla Murphy conducted a survey of former journalists of color to understand why they left the industry. Journalists who responded cited newsroom mismanagement, workplace stress, and low pay as their primary reasons.
Sapong says working to fight for racial equity in a newsroom can take a toll on an already burnt out journalist. Unfortunately, when a journalist of color leaves the profession, that leads to fewer stories on communities of color.
“I think there needs to be some focus on getting white journalists to also cover these communities,” she said. “If these organizations are really serious about being inclusive, it wouldn’t be this sort of novelty or side project we do every now and then and pat ourselves on the back.”
Numerous studies of American journalism have concluded that diversity in coverage is essential to the long-term social relevance and financial success of mainstream media.
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