The Spokesman-Review : interns

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Shefali: Newspaper's role in representing its community

Looking back, I really enjoyed writing my '7' story on jeans in the workplace. It wasn't just because I got to go out into downtown Spokane with our photographer, Amanda, and scare people by asking them where they got their expensive jeans. It's because after a long time there was some diversity in the paper. I got a chance to talk to an African American woman who was previously in finance and now follows a career in dancing. She dressed her jeans well.
I have to hand it to the Spokesman Review. For a community with very little diversity they are trying their best to convey a diverse perspective of the inland northwest.
But there is always more that can be done. And as a young journalist of color, I feel it's my personal responsibility to initiate this.
When I worked at The Dalles Chronicle I was told that I would be writing profiles on local women for the paper's annual Women in Business section. While looking at back issues of the section I realized that there wasn't a single woman of color. The Dalles is a diverse community with a large Samoan population and a growing Hispanic population--not to mention the prospect of an even more diverse community with Google moving to The Dalles in the next few years--it wasn't as if they were low on minorities to profile.
Then I did see minorities in the newspaper, but in the news section or in the public record section (that shows the previous night's police report). It was very frustrating to read and know that I worked at a paper that didn't take this lack of diversity issue as seriously as I did.
I decided I wanted to see a woman of color in that summer's Women in Business section. My hunt led me to a professor at Columbia Gorge Community College. An Afro-Caribbean woman from NY, the professor was the head of the math, science, business and technology department of the college--how perfect.
I could have written the story better, (in my opinion) but it was refreshing to see a woman of color in the paper--in a good light.
For the remainder of my internship here at the SR I hope to try to accomplish a similar goal. The '7' story not only showed women in jeans, it showed men too! And an African American woman as well.
If a newspaper is to serve its community well—part of that should entail covering all aspects of the community. Is a newspaper really functioning as a community tool if it is not representing all the different cultures inside that community? I'm glad to see articles in the SR that talk about diversity issues. A story that ran in June about a Hispanic family protesting a dress code really reignited my desire to pursue a story about diversity. Hopefully I can come through.


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