Let’s Mix It Up: Advancing Diversity in the Newsroom

Telum Media hosted on 18 May an online panel with media experts to discuss “Diversity in the Newsroom” at the light of findings from AAJA-Asia’s Advancing News Diversity in Asia (ANDA) research report.  

“Why are we still talking about it in 2022?” asked panelist Angie Lau, founder of Forkast.News said. This rings true: Shouldn’t diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) be an integral and natural part of our lives in this day and age?

According to the Pulitzer Center, diversity is “the representation and acknowledgment of the multitudes of identities, experiences, and ways of moving through the world.” Equity entails “respect and equal opportunity for all,” and inclusion is “fostering an environment in which people of all identities are welcome, valued, and supported.”

Even though companies are trying to incorporate DEI into the workspace, more can be done in the newsroom. In order to design relevant initiatives for advancing DEI in Asia’s newsrooms and news coverage, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), with the support of the Meta Journalism Project, carried out a research project involving over 1000 journalists.

62% of journalists indicated that reporting breaking and daily news doesn’t leave them enough time to focus on DEI stories. According to the report, other barriers journalists frequently encounter is that DEI stories do not meet the criteria of traditional hard news values and that they are likely to receive negative feedback from the audience.

In the expert panel discussion moderated by Telum Media on 18 May, AAJA-Asia’s President K. Oanh Ha, Anjali Kapoor, Director of News Partnerships, APAC at Meta, Cliff Buddle, Special Projects Editor at the South China Morning Post and Forkast.News’ Editor-in-Chief, Angie Lau, shared the challenges they are facing and suggested strategies to increase DEI in the media.

According to the panelists, some key obstacles to advancing DEI in the newsroom include:

  • Female journalists feel unsupported, while sexual harassment against women in news outlets or when interacting with sources and news makers remains prevalent.
  • Reporters find themselves held back from reporting DEI news due to fear of backlash from their audience.
  • Journalists from under-represented communities lack allies and mentors in the newsroom.

One of the strategies to mitigate these challenges proposed by Anjali Kapoor is for journalists to locate “strong allies” to support them on the stories they want to tell. She also encouraged journalists to be “brave enough” to cover DEI news and seek out people to elevate their voices during news pitches.

Other strategies were more targeted toward the newsroom, such as instituting training programs and mentorships to support journalists as well as targeting the disconnect between top management and employees regarding DEI coverage, as suggested by K. Oanh Ha, president of AAJA-Asia.

Cliff Buddle advised journalists to diversify their sources. This can be done by actively seeking new sources in different areas: SCMP, for instance, created a database of women experts that its journalists can use to diversify their sources. The Alibaba owned news media also uses analytics to address the imbalance in readership demographics.

These talks shed light on the growing awareness in newsrooms that DEI pertains to the core values of journalism and on the important work that we still need to put in to ensure a diverse workforce and news coverage. 

AAJA-Asia’s upcoming New.Now.Next Media conference (Singapore, 27-30 July 2022) will further contribute to this conversation and feature a panel session on the specificity of diversity, equity and inclusion in the context of the Asia news media industry. Registration for the conference is open here