The public’s trust in the media is at an all time low of 32 percent, according to a Gallup poll. While the reasoning for this opinion might differ from reader to reader, for many it could be the lack of diversity within the media. Bringing new diverse perspectives can aid the media in connecting with the audience that it serves.
In 2015, the Radio Television Digital News Association conducted a study that measured the level of diversity in the media. It found that while newsrooms have made strides in increasing diversity over the last ten years, newsrooms are far from representing the full U.S. population.
Minorities made up one third of the population of the United States in 2015 and that number increases every year. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2020, the majority of children in the U.S. will be persons of color or a minority. With the growing rate of minorities, shouldn’t the newsroom reflect the people they are reporting on?
Studies show that people are reliant on younger and smaller localized sources of media, like many of the new digital outlets that flood Facebook timelines. However, within these smaller, localized sources, the media has the lowest diversity rate. Minorities only accounting for 22 percent of their total personnel.
The media has made quantifiable strides to diversify the newsroom; however, an informal survey conducted on The George Washington University’s campus indicates that media organizations are still missing the mark.
When asked whether they find the media diverse, most minority students responded “no.” When asked whether or not the media is reporting on topics that are important to them, the majority of the students said “yes,” but noted that the coverage is either narrow or “not completely accurate.” When asked to rank their level of trust in the media majority of the responses ranged between three and six on a 10-point scale.
Typically it is politicians that are disconnected from certain communities, as we saw with Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Conversely, this election cycle highlighted the media’s disconnection with the public.
Now politicians themselves are taking notice of the gap. Back in November, GOP operative Curt Anderson, an adviser to a pro-Trump super PAC explained that, “they [the mainstream media] are in a bubble, and that bubble has just been burst.”
The media needs a fresh perspective and needs to get back in touch with not only viewers, but the American people at large. The media needs to engage in more “bubble bursting.” Having fresh ideas and perspectives is always a welcome prospect and is necessary to push the envelope in any field.
Different perspectives, whether they be regional, cultural or gender-oriented, are going to be instrumental in gaining real insight to the issues that matter to the people. Having people from all walks of life can help connect the media to more communities while helping to better understand those communities.
A journalist that comes from the south side of Chicago will inevitably provide a different perspective on the violence in that area, compared to someone tuning in from an office in D.C. Having a localized media that is in-touch with the community it serves will help journalists get a better perspective and avoid some of the issues they faced during the 2016 election.
Creating a diverse newsroom not only helps to broaden the lens of the media, but also inspires a new generation of young people. Seeing reporters on TV or reading articles by those that may look, talk, or be from the same area as you helps to inspire young people. It affirms that not only is the information they are consuming meant for them but also that they can fill those same roles. It shows young people that their abilities are not limited because of their skin color, ethnicity, zip code, or religion.
By increasing diversity as the industry continues to grow, the media can help the trend and start to create a newsroom that embodies the population that it represents.