The Daily Nexus needs to commit to implementing formal diversity initiatives to attract, retain and support staffers and editors of color.
For far too long, the work of a diversity and inclusion director at the Nexus has been done in bits and pieces by editors of color, who do the work because we believe it’s necessary, and because we feel the weight of journalism failing communities of color more heavily than our white counterparts ever will.
I’m about to graduate, and I’m leaving behind a majority-white editorial staff, news team and leadership team.
When I joined the news team, I knew that I was doing it because I wanted more students of color on this campus to feel like the Nexus was a paper for them and to see their stories reflected in our coverage. In my two years as a news editor, I have been responsible for most, if not all, story pitches regarding students of color, and it has always been a fight to explain why the stories I pitched were necessary, and why the perspective I brought as a person of color to the paper was necessary.
Over the past two years, the few editors of color on staff took it upon ourselves to lead frank discussions within the newsroom, the news team and with leadership about the lack of diversity on staff and what we need to be doing better with our coverage.
By no means am I saying that the work I or other editors did was enough — the Nexus has historically failed students of color on this campus, and to say that a few individuals cycling through the office could fix that would be disingenuous.
The journalism industry at large struggles with these same issues, and without institutional change at the Nexus, and with the high turnover of a college newsroom, nothing will change.
As an organization that demands accountability and transparency from every entity on campus, the Nexus needs to uphold these same standards. After speaking with other journalists of color and from my familiarity with work in other newsrooms, these are a few recommendations that I’m leaving behind. They are by no means the fullest extent of what the Nexus should be doing, but a few places to start.
- Publish yearly or quarterly data on the diversity of the editorial staff.
- Create a formal Diversity and Inclusion Board made up of members of the editorial staff as well as outside representatives. (The Daily Texan has a good reference for a Diversity and Inclusion board here). The goal of this board should be to serve as an internal resource for staffers and to oversee diversity initiatives. These should be paid positions.
- Create a Nexus version of this Guidelines for Inclusive Journalism document from the Seattle Times Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and hold a mandatory staff-wide meeting to distribute it to all current and future editorial staff members and go over the content.
- Dedicate time and resources to doing intentional outreach to students of color and the many student-led organizations on campus that create spaces for students of color. Reach out to student leaders, ask to speak at meetings and open yourself up to feedback and criticism.
- Advertise the opinion section, specifically the op-ed and letter to the editor columns, more broadly and more proactively so that the section reflects a diverse set of voices beyond just its consistent writers.
It’s not enough for the Nexus to just undertake these initiatives to bring more staffers and editors of color into the newsroom. The Nexus, and its white leadership in particular, needs to be more conscientious about how to support these staffers and editors once they join the newsroom, and to listen to what they’re saying, even if it makes them uncomfortable.
The Nexus’ white leadership also needs to spend time educating themselves about race, and fostering conversations within the newsroom at large about how students of color are being covered. The newsroom cannot make progress if the Nexus tokenizes the editors of color that are on staff.
For a long time, I really naively thought that the Nexus was immune to the problems that plagued this industry. I know better now, and I ask that the Nexus takes these steps and more to do better for the students of color on this campus.
Sanya Kamidi is an outgoing editor at the Daily Nexus. She previously served as the deputy news editor and director of social media strategy.