In recent years, The Temple News has strived to be diverse in its sourcing and staff but there is always room for improvement. As an independent publication, The Temple News must do better in diversifying its staff and sources, and remain neutral in coverage by continuing to use tools like diversity trackers and audits.
Having diverse editors can encourage diversity in freelancers, said Tyler Perez, a senior secondary education-English education major, and the 2020-21 chief copy editor at The Temple News.
“If a freelancer is a person of color, is a woman or is a person of the LGBTQ community, and they see themselves reflected in their editor, that will encourage more people to become freelancers for the paper,” Perez said.
Lack of diversity in newsrooms is not a unique issue. More than 75 percent of news analysts, reporters and White House correspondents are white and non-Hispanic, Data USA reported.
In Spring 2021, less than six percent of editors-in-chief at college newsrooms were Black, and only 11 percent of the top editors were Hispanic, according to an August 2021 survey from Voices, a program created by the Asian American Journalists Association.
Insufficient representation in the media and negative portrayals of minorities can perpetuate stereotypes about different groups of people, Vice reported.
Without a diverse newsroom, journalists are unable to serve all parts of their community, according to the American Press Institute.
A lack of newsroom diversity also prevents journalists from fully reporting certain stories because there may be no one who has a connection to what is being covered, said Christina Mitchell, a public health graduate student and the 2020-21 Opinion editor at The Temple News.
“You might be reporting on it, but it’s not going to have that same impact it would if it was coming from a person who could relate to that topic,” Mitchell said.
The importance of diversity is not limited to the staff. It is also important that The Temple News maintain diversity in sourcing. That was something that last year’s staff focused on, said Valerie Dowret, a 2021 journalism alumni and the 2020-21 assignments editor at The Temple News.
“We were pushing that, whether it’s in people’s genders, people’s ethnicities, people’s political views or ages, it’s something we tried to be mindful of,” Dowret said.
The Temple News would occasionally interview the same people for multiple stories, which can be a pro and a con, Mitchell said.
“We tend to reinterview people a lot, it’s a double-edged sword because if you’re reinterviewing someone they’re definitely going to be more willing to talk but, by nature of that, that’s not super diverse,” Mitchell said.
Increasing the diversity of sources helps reporters improve their articles, as their different backgrounds add to the story and make it more relevant to the audience, according to Nieman Reports, an online and print publication that covers thought leadership in journalism.
During the 2020 presidential election it was hard to find conservative sources, people may not want to talk because they perceive The Temple News to be a left-leaning paper, Perez said.
“It’s really easy for us as Temple students to have a liberal bias when we’re writing and reporting,” Perez said. “If there were five voices in a story, it would be four pro-Biden voices and one pro-Trump voice that we threw in there simply because we needed one.”
Last year, The Temple News attempted to utilize a diversity tracker through Google Sheets to analyze the variety of sources. But it eventually fizzled out because the staff did not have the infrastructure or the skills to create a tracker that was easy to use and gave honest results, Perez said.
A diversity audit that assesses the demographics and culture of the staff, like the one done at the Philadelphia Inquirer, is another useful tool to track diversity in a comprehensive, quantitative and qualitative look into the representation of different races and genders in the paper’s coverage.
As a watchdog for the community, The Temple News must hold itself accountable for its lack of diversity in sources and staff so it can more effectively report and serve the community.