Toward a new definition of diversity

Toward a new definition of diversity

: Perhaps it is time to come up with a new definition of “diversity” in American media.

Perhaps we should be looking for diversity of viewpoint — though that means one has to admit having a viewpoint — rather than merely diversity of ethnicity.

This is an era of fusion people: I’ve watched Tiger Woods, Soledad O’Brien, and Vin Diesel refuse to be categorized by one of their ethnicities or another.

This is also an era of fusion opinions: You can’t tell a conservative or a liberal by his or her cover… and so we want them to tear off the covers and reveal themselves.

So now go read Jay Rosen’s excellent wrap-up of the brouhaha that occurred at last week’s Unity convention of minority journalists, many of whom gave John Kerry a standing ovation while most gave George Bush at best a polite and seated clap-clap.

Two forces come together in this story: The journalism orthodoxy, which says that journalists should not have public opinions, and the diversity orthodoxy, which defines diversity, as Michelle Malkin says, as merely “skin-deep.”

Jay, as only Jay can, gets to the marrow of the group-think going on here: that “the display of political feeling is unprofessional” … that ethics are about following rules set by the rule-makers… that minorities are ethnic minorities (not opinion minorities)… and so on. Go read his neat surgery of the ideas at play here.

Like Jay, I hope we have the ambition to break up that grouppressthink.

Imagine a world where:

+ Journalists admit they are human, just like their publics…

+ Journalists admit that they, like their publics, have viewpoints…

+ Journalists admit those viewpoints so their publics can judge what they say in that context…

+ Journalistic organizations seek out and publish or broadcast a variety of viewpoints so their publics can judge what the journalists are saying…

Imagine a world in which we value diversity of viewpoints and opinions — not just birth — so we can seek the wisdom of the crowds to find the best solutions to the issues that face us.

In this world, it would not be big news that a gaggle of journalists gave the liberal candidate a standing O; it would be confirmation of what many already think of journalists — and of what Dan Okrent confessed when he wrote that, indeed, The Times is a liberal newspaper.

Isn’t it better to be honest? And isn’t honest the essential value of journalism?

And having been honest, isn’t it better to then seek diversity of many defininitions — ethnic, sure; and sexual, of course; but also political and economic and and geographic (suburbanites are was underrepresented in major media!) and educational (I’ll bet we’re thick with Harvard diplomas) and religious (and nonreligious) and attitudinal (optimists vs. cynics) and on and on? It’s so damned one-dimensional so define diversity by one dimension.

How do we seek that diversity? I’ve told editors at various confabs and panels that we no longer need to assume that the only route to diversity is through hiring (though there’s nothing wrong with such hiring). We need not be limited to whom we can hire to gain diversity because that is limiting. We can — yes, I’m about to raise weblogs — find an ever-growing world of diverse viewpoints in citizens media. Embracing what citizens think and say is a step toward the real goal: Representing what the citizenry thinks.

  • Trump

    “Diversity”- as trumpeted by the left- only applies to skin hues. Heaven forbid diversity ever means someone who thinks differently (read: to the right)
    Those journalists who gave Kerry a standing ovation need to have their names printed and exposed in the interests of keeping the public informed.
    As a throwaway line, I sincerely doubt any of these minorty “journalists” will be seizing on the Kerry Cambodian Christmas fabrication. We need to know the names of these scum so we can expose them for what they write….and what they withhold.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    But let’s not go for diversity of vitriole. I mean you, “trump.” Ease up and get a life, fella.

  • Tollhouse

    Someday it might happen, but first the media is going to have to give up the gravytrain of stories that write themselves. They’ll have to move beyond the framing of the two sided debate. The mainstream media has shown zero inkling that they are prepared too, even Foxnews uses the same “framing” of issues, albeit with a bit more conservative bias.

  • notthisgirl

    What bothers me, is when the media outlets who are obviously liberal rail against Fox News (and that OutFoxed thing) and *their* bias.
    Media bias is Okay, only if it fits their agenda.
    And, basically, I think many Americans are sick of the complaining. Back in the 80′s and well before, the liberal media had a choke-hold on what we were spoon-fed. But then Limbaugh hit the airwaves and suddenly, there was someone moderates and conservatives could identify more with.
    Limbaugh back when he started in the New York market was great. He actually had somewhat of a co-host. She was his news girl (Kathleen something-or-other), and was indeed a liberal. They used to have great discussions and debates … and got along well too. Very nice chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed the program back then.
    Limbaugh’s success got to him, like so many others. These days, I can’t listen to more than a few minutes here or there – if that. And although I tend to agree with Sean Hannity’s opinions, he’s become difficult to listen to as well. The egos!

  • Frank Martin

    If business journalists have to report their ownership of stock or mutual funds, why shouldnt campaign reporters also be required to disclose their campaign contributions or activities when they report what they consider to be news?
    I’m all for bias. What I’m against is the illusion that the current crop of ‘journalists’ dont have one. Once upon a time, the world of reporters was made up of work-a-day people who had the additional talent of being able to write a good story. What makes up todays ranks of ‘journalists’ are people who are there largely out of the desire, not to tell a story, but to ‘change the world’.( the joke in our high school was that journalism class was for people with an ego that couldnt do drama, math and science or shop classes).
    In my opinion, the rise of the agenda journalist is the very worst thing to come about in modern journalism since the rise of the one newspaper town. Everyone wants to be the next guy to bring the president down, but no one wants to take pictures of mass graves of innocents ( unless its american troops that are accused of doing the killing)
    The rise of the blogosphere is the free market solving a problem that the current information providers havent really begun to acknowledge exists. I get most of my news and analysis courtesy of my desktop ‘blog jaeger’ and have found that the news and information to be more accurate and more timely than anything offered by the ‘journalists’. My news sources are full of bias, I know it, and so do they. If the daily newspaper wasnt chock full of advertising that I find useful, it would be cancelled. I never watch the local news, as it is designed primarliy to scare the living snot out of you, and the one piece of really helpful information, the weather, is relegated to clown-college status. Cable news shows are interesting, but frankly they run out of things to fill time, and as a result, 10 second stories like laci peterson are given months to devolve from a news item into some form of creepy voyeristic pornography.
    The only reason the issue of bias exists in journalism today is that most of the people in the news industry know full well that their values and world outlook puts them far outside what the “lumpen proletariat” would find acceptible, therefore to reveal their bias in full disclosure would be a defacto pink slip for many of the providers and individuals in their industry.
    When CNN says ‘ the worlds most trusted news source’ what they are saying to me is ” you cant be trusted to think for yourself’. What the industry hates about Fox is that by their very existence, it shows how horribly to the left many sources of news have become.
    And like many on the left, rather than compete in the market, they will try to stifle the competition through regulation and legal rampage rather than compete with better information and better reporting.

  • http://myblahg.blogspot.com Robert McClelland

    Imagine a world where:
    The media wasn’t called a bunch of useless f**ktards every minute of every day by the right whingers who then wonder why that same media gives Kerry an ovation while Bush only gets polite applause.

  • Andy

    “IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE:”
    Its called blogs. It is here. Journalists vs bloggers is the reliability of the paycheck. Journalism has lost its monopoly hold on information. Otherwise, how to explain the popularity of blogs?
    Diversity?
    Where ideas count more than skin colour?
    Wouldn’t that also be blogs? Do we know or care what colour fingers hit keyboards?
    What we need are blog-aggregators-editors.
    We need some organization that pulls together blogs and presents them in a ready to read fromat.
    The media monsters would be wise to establish an electronic paper that includes blogs + traditional journalists. Look at the newsletters that now go out daily. Would they be enhanced by inclusion of a blog or two?
    Any group claiming status via skin colour in their title is defacto Democrat/anti-Bush. They have no desire to be treated as equals in any arena. They have grown accustomed to the special position and privileges their skin colour provides.
    Competition solely on merit is anathema to those for whom diversity and affirmative action = free pass.
    There is no genetic reason why one race can achieve more than any other. That leaves only culture as the handicap. How can a cultural handicap be overcome when it is claimed as an economic advantage? Until the economic advantage disappears the calls for diversity and affirmative action will remain.

  • h0mi

    Imagine a world where:
    the media was honest and forthright about their biases, and wasn’t a “bad news” media.

  • Ptolemy

    Trump made an excellent point. Why do journalists get to hide and even lie in print? Who is watching the watchers? I believe Americans are smarter than the main media think so I”m not worried about Bush’s accomplishments being covered up and minimized. Its just the “fairness” issue that gets me. The attitude of blatant evil in mixing up the information with the goal to deceive the public. They are free to do this of course but there really should be a complete profile of journalists who write in papers or present on telivision so that we always know where their coming from. If they don’t want to be judged by their profile then they can start writing honestly for a change. Is the Left ever silent about where Rush and Hannity are coming from when they make statements?

  • Hangtown Bob

    “Imagine a world where:
    + Journalists admit they are human, just like their publics…
    + Journalists admit that they, like their publics, have viewpoints…
    + Journalists admit those viewpoints so their publics can judge what they say in that context…
    + Journalistic organizations seek out and publish or broadcast a variety of viewpoints so their publics can judge what the journalists are saying…”
    Sounds like the BLOGOSPHERE to me !!

  • questionater

    Nice thoughts … but before we get too John Lennon, doesn’t this sort of go counter to the screed about journalists as a cause de celeb? Didn’t you write something about that a few weeks ago? Something about how the first person narrative was creeping in as even the writers start developing public personalities like TV and radio journalists/commentators?

  • http://www.realityblogs.com Steve K.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on this, Jeff. Diversity isn’t just about ethnicity. It’s about much more than that. My personal perspective is that of being an evangelical Christian, but my viewpoints are not necessarily the party line that one would associated with other evangelical leaders, who are mostly caricatured and maligned in the media. You have to realize that Jerry Falwell is on the extreme end of the spectrum, and that there’s a lot of diversity even within evangelicalism, for example. I hate to think that because I’m an evangelical, what you think of Falwell reflects on me. Because it shouldn’t.
    And I do hope the journalistic establishment can wake up and realize that nobody is buying this “objectivity” crap. Just tell us straight up where you’re coming from. Most of us out here are intelligent enough to see that there’s a lot more nuance and sophistication going on than just “liberal”/”conservative” — because we live with it ourselves! So stop the crap.

  • Angus Jung

    Imagine a world where:
    McClelland took his meds every single day.

  • http://roxanne.typepad.com roxanne

    Agree.
    You don’t have to be Danish to play Hamlet. BUT, you have to understand what motivates Hamlet and how his environment impacts his interests and decisions.

  • Darryl

    The Bush family have brokered deals to get control of ABC and Disney. A 300 million dollar check from the richbest man in the world a Saudi Roayal family member. NBC has a 600 million dollar contract in Iraq. Fox has the Bush Family working there and controling things. Using CIA know how and connections the Bush family have got control of America by the throat.
    Bush has used Saudi money to get control of this country. There were Saudi’s in the planes on 9/11. Bin Laden who has got a free pass to escape is Saudi. If Scott Peterson kill Laci, Bush was behind 9/11.
    They got the control on the voting machines also. What do you call that again TYRAN I mean Tyrant that is whatg that is called. Well they got about 500 people involved in pulling this of so I guess you call it a ruling tyrant group how is that.
    Why don’t these things get brought up at every news cast? They won the New Companyies.
    Bush and Cheney are common crominals. Lets elcect Kerry sibann the Repugs party and start a real democratic party.