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.