The journalism department has eased up on a policy from Spring 2013 that discouraged students from interning at the Inquirer’s city desk due to a lack of African-American reporters in the newsroom. This policy exists despite the recent appointment of a second Inquirer co-owner on the university’s Board of Trustees.
Professor Maida Odom, director of the department’s internship office, said the faculty decided as a group to enact the discouragement policy on her suggestion after the Inquirer reassigned its last African-American city desk reporter, Vernon Clark, to the obituaries section.
“We felt it was a tipping point,” Odom said. “We decided we shouldn’t send students into that environment.”
Before joining the journalism department’s faculty in 2006, Odom worked as a reporter for the Inquirer for more than 20 years and worked on the city desk during that time. She said she remains close with staff members at the newspaper.
Odom said the Inquirer city desk had “apartheid era staffing,” compared with other newspapers and media outlets where students were interning.
When students were told about the policy, Odom said they were understanding. Several students interned at other sections of the newspaper, including sports and features.
Odom said the policy technically ended after the spring semester when the Inquirer hired a new African-American reporter. She said the department still does not actively encourage internship opportunities at the publication.
The department’s stance in the spring came before H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest joined Lewis Katz as the second member the Inquirer’s ownership group on Temple’s Board of Trustees, its highest governing body, in October.
After his appointment to the board, Lenfest said he would be committed to Temple’s mission of diversity, citing it as one of the main reasons he became involved in donating money to Temple.
“Students go [to Temple] because they want an education,” Lenfest said. “Not because their parents went to college.”
The makeup of the Inquirer’s newsroom has been much less diverse than the student population at Temple and the population of the city workforce, Odom said.
Lenfest, Katz and other Inquirer officials didn’t respond to requests for comment by The Temple News.
Both are involved with a legal battle with the paper’s publisher over the firing of Editor Bill Marimow. They claimed co-owner George Norcross tried to meddle in newsroom operations and Marimow resisted it, resulting in his firing.
Lenfest supported the School of Media and Communication in the past, establishing the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Scholarship, which funds students on internship programs with awards up to $2,500.
The Inquirer recently announced that spring internships will be paid.
Odom said she was proud of the journalism department for going through with the policy.
Joe Gilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.