Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Why journalism needs diversity

Exploring why there is insufficient diversity in journalism
Rachel Maynard

When I first told my mom that I wanted to be a journalism major, she asked me to repeat myself. She wasn’t trying to discount my dreams; she simply didn’t know what journalism meant in English. By the time she determined what I wanted to study, she had many questions for me: Did I have a summer internship? How would I get a job after graduation?

All her questions were valid, and I had mulled them over as well. I’m a first-generation college student with immigrant parents, so I’ve had to be academically independent since I was a child. My mom stopped helping me with math after sixth grade. I’ve been the go-to editor for text messages, emails and holiday cards since I could remember. Of course, that meant that adults at home never helped me with my writing.

They did, however, encourage me to read, and my thirst for reading shaped me into the writer that I am today. I became enamored with storytelling: the fact that we can use words to convey real events and real people. The fact that we can share our deepest thoughts and feelings was incredible to me.

I wanted to write more and I was fortunate to have a student newspaper at my high school that allowed me to write, edit and experience some of what it is like to be a journalist. Still, I didn’t see many prominent Asian-American journalists in the media growing up, which made telling my friends and family about my chosen major difficult. People in my immediate community study subjects like biology or engineering, so I didn’t have a reference point for success, a support system or a mentor who looked like me to help me with my studies.

Women have been fighting for a place in this field – and greater workplace equity – for years. Why is there still insufficient diversity in journalism?

For journalism to be a profession that is safe, equitable and welcoming, people must be given the necessary resources to succeed. In many fields, including journalism, connections are essential. Getting valuable opportunities that will benefit one’s career often stems from knowing the right person.

For minority women, however, these connections don’t always exist. Their families may have immigrated to the U.S., they might be first-generation students who lack legacies at prestigious universities and they probably fought for their work to be considered legitimate. Moreover, because of financial barriers and the disparity between women studying journalism in universities and women working in journalism, there is not much representation to begin with. It is daunting to enter a field that requires mental and emotional tenacity without support from one’s social network or the knowledge that there are others like you in the profession.

In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on empowering girls in STEM, and, as a result, there is much more visibility and mentorship systems in place for girls interested in those fields. Conversely, there are not many women of color in journalism, and without sufficient representation or resources to explore the field, the idea of becoming a journalist may not even cross minority girls’ minds. Creating national and local programs for young female, minority reporters where they can shadow a journalist who looks like them or have an opportunity to work for a student-run publication could be invaluable in uplifting the next generation of journalists who can bring fresh insights to reporting.

I have been drawn to writing since childhood because it gave me a voice. Sometimes I can still feel my younger self tugging on my leg, afraid to speak, afraid that my voice was too much or that I was taking up too much space. Existing at the intersection of being Asian and female, people expect you to be quiet, submissive and docile – someone who will not cause trouble.

We need more diversity in journalism because we need better coverage of minority communities. We need people to bring their lived experiences to journalism so the nuances of the issues that plague our society are covered with sensitivity and accuracy. We need to foster an environment that will encourage the retention of minority journalists in this field by valuing their voices.

Grace Chai can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *