Like any other college or professional publication, the Daily Nexus has its strengths as well as its flaws. As an independent, student-run newspaper, our editors often grapple with difficult decisions regarding journalistic ethics. Many times over the course of the paper’s 90-year history, these decisions have resulted in mistakes or oversights that have caused harm to the diverse communities we report on.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the wave of protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, journalists across the country have ramped up calls for diversity and inclusion in the newsroom. This includes members of our current editorial staff, joining those who have called for changes to the Nexus in past years.
Over the summer, the editorial staff of the Nexus reflected on how our publication can better represent and report on the UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista communities which we serve.
A group of 15 editorial staff members, including the editor in chief and the managing editor, formed a Diversity Task Force which began meeting weekly in June. These meetings have consisted of open discussions about how the Nexus can improve diversity and inclusion in our paper and the concrete steps that we must take for this to happen.
The objectives of the Diversity Task Force consist of the following:
- Ensure that our editorial and general staff reflect the diversity of our community
- Strengthen representation in our coverage by improving relationships with campus and community organizations through consistent outreach
- Provide training on diversity and inclusion for all Nexus staff
We’ve waited to publicly announce the Diversity Task Force until tangible plans for this fall and beyond were well underway. Our ultimate goal is to create an institutional base of knowledge to pass down to future generations of editors so that this essential work continues to be carried out.
Delving further into the initiatives we are launching this fall, here is a summary of our plans:
- Outreach to organizations: Over the summer, the Task Force compiled a list of campus and community organizations, specifically those supporting underrepresented groups. The aim of this endeavor is to build long-term connections with student leaders on campus and open up a dialogue about how we can better cover our campus as a whole. As editors and writers, we have blind spots and miss the mark covering certain organizations. Only through improved outreach can we ensure that student organizations and communities are not ignored or misrepresented.
- Developing a staff survey: This fall, the Nexus will conduct anonymous surveys of our editorial team and staff members to gain a better understanding of the Nexus’ demographics. Survey topics include race, gender and sexual orientation, financial status, major and first-generation status, among other questions. The survey also provides an opportunity for members to assess the Nexus’ workplace dynamics and provide feedback that will be used for the creation of future initiatives. The results of these surveys will be anonymously released in a public report later in the quarter. Our goal is to identify which communities are represented within the Nexus and how we can better recruit writers and editors to mirror the diversity of experiences of our student body.
- Coverage tracker: Starting this fall, each content-producing section of the paper will be tracking the subject matter, source types and other trends in all stories published by the Nexus. This tool will allow editors to identify which stories or groups aren’t being covered in their sections. The editorial staff will meet once a quarter to review coverage tracker progress and examine what changes need to be made in our reporting.
- Staff trainings: Every writer, artist, designer, photographer and videographer who joins the Nexus — whether they contribute a single piece or on a regular basis — should be given support and opportunities to learn about journalism. Each section has different training methods, but the bottom line is that editors should make their sections welcoming and supportive environments. All editors currently train their writers on the fundamentals and ethics of journalism and expectations for their sections. In addition to training for writers, editors need formal training on how to lead a section, along with ethics of journalism, sourcing and skills such as fact checking.The Nexus will be ramping up training for both writers and editors by continually gathering outside resources from experts on diversity and inclusion in journalism. The success of a newspaper is largely defined by the coverage it produces. If a newsroom’s coverage is not representative of the communities it serves, then it is not fulfilling its purpose as a newspaper. The Nexus must promote accountability and transparency by facilitating conversation about its successes and failures. Only by working together as an editorial staff can we ensure that all editors learn from one another’s mistakes.
The Diversity Task Force will continue to meet through the end of Fall Quarter 2020 as it moves into its next phase: the creation of two Diversity and Inclusion Chair positions. These will be permanent, paid editorial staff positions. Once hired, the two chairs will continue and expand the work of the Task Force, including by conducting the staff survey, developing and facilitating staff trainings and overseeing coverage trackers.
We acknowledge that the Nexus is not a perfect organization and we have a long way to go. The Diversity Task Force is composed of student journalists who are dedicated to making the Nexus a more inclusive and representative organization, both in our staff and in our coverage.
This list of changes is far from comprehensive; we are always open to feedback. Please email Harper Lambert, our editor in chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in learning more about the Task Force or if you have any suggestions.