Letter from the Opinions and Amplify Editor | How we plan to continue to diversify our newsroom

As a new semester begins, The Daily Iowan plans to continue to improve its efforts in upholding diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Hannah Pinksi, Opinions and Amplify Editor

Hannah Pinski, Opinions and Amplify editor

As calls for racial and social justice continue to confront American institutions, the media is no exception.

According to research from the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of professional newsroom employees in the U.S. are white men, which is less diverse than the American workforce overall.

In another study from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the U.S. ranked last among 46 countries for trust in the media. Part of the reason, that study showed, is because Americans — particularly those who identify as Black or Hispanic — don’t believe that organizations are covering their demographics fairly, and are therefore less likely to trust the news.

Without representation from communities the media serves, it’s no surprise that the absence of their input has led to media outlets harming underrepresented communities. Oftentimes, they are either misrepresented or sometimes not even covered at all.

There is a dire need in the industry for diverse representation, but it’s not just to earn back trust. Retired television journalist and author Tom Brokaw once said, “It’s all storytelling, you know. That’s what journalism is all about.”

But how can we as journalists call ourselves storytellers if we’re not telling everyone’s story the right way, or at all?

If we want to see change in the professional world, students have to start being the change in their own newsroom. After all, we are the future generation of the industry.

Last year, I joined The Daily Iowan’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee because I wanted to have a direct hand in creating change. This year, I have the privilege to step into the role of Amplify editor and help lead our team to push for DEI initiatives.

For The Daily Iowan, we have a long way to go in terms of diversifying our staff.  Last year, we conducted our first annual staff audit. In 2020, 82 percent of the 88 staff members who responded were white. Eight staffers identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, six were Hispanic/Latinx, one person was Middle East North African, one person was Black, and one person was Jewish.

The journey to diversify our staff is going to be long, and it’s going to take more than one step or year to make the progress we want to see. But this initial step, and continuing these audits to hold ourselves accountable, is part of the commitment to our work to learn about what needs to be done.

But having more representation on staff is only part of the equation.

Last year, the DI launched a new page, Amplify, to heighten voices from underrepresented communities. This included the opportunity to partner with the UI Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists to publish a story about Humanize my Hoodie, a national organization that originated in Iowa — and its efforts to destigmatize hoodies.

This year, I want to hear directly from you. The goal for this page is to highlight topics surrounding identity and world events in the UI and Iowa City community. It’s meant for readers from underrepresented communities to engage with the DI and give the opportunity to tell your story in your own words.

Let’s celebrate who you are and your accomplishments, and not just tell stories in times of crisis. We don’t want to just limit ourselves to traditional news stories. Submit your art, poetry, or anything else that expresses your identity.

In the past, these stories haven’t been reported enough both in professional and student media outlets. My hope is that this section helps change the current status quo.

We also started hosting Community Chats, where we brought in professionals from various media outlets to discuss topics relating to DEI initiatives. Our panelists included various journalists such as Andrea Sahouri, a general assignment and social justice reporter from the Des Moines Register, and Maudlyne Ihejirika, the Chicago Chronicles columnist and staff reporter from the Chicago Sun Times. Our conversation varied, with one example being how to make media more accessible to LGBTQ+ topics in journalism.

My hope in continuing these chats is that they will provide open conversations with both our staff and the community about issues that may often be swept under the rug, yet play a vital role in the media industry. Young and professional journalists today are realizing that our identities shape our reporting, and that it’s important to have representation and have conversations about the communities we serve.

We also implemented a variety of training for our staff about reporting on identities and the role of implicit bias.

The DEI committee isn’t meant to sideline all of the efforts to one part of the newsroom. We realize it’s every staff member’s responsibility to learn and make the newsroom a more accessible and inclusive organization. The team is meant to institutionalize our efforts and hold the organization accountable for change.

As we begin the school year, I hope to earn trust with the community, give a voice to people who feel like they’ve been unheard, and make our organization more accessible and inclusive for people of all identities.

It’s going to take time — well beyond my years at The Daily Iowan — to create the change that needs to happen.

But this is at least a start, and I want to play a small part in making a difference and creating change in our newsroom and industry.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.