A Black woman is slated to become the first Black executive editor of the Miami Herald in the daily newspaper’s 117 year history. Monica Richardson, that woman and a former boss of mine at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has nearly 30 years of experience in the news business, the Miami Herald reported. “I don’t take that lightly,” Richardson told the newspaper. “It means a lot to me. It means a lot to my family. It means a lot to my ancestors. I’ll step into those shoes and work hard.”

When she starts Jan. 1, I’ll defintely be cheering her on, though admittedly from a somewhat conflicted place because let’s just call a duck a duck: It should not have taken more than a century to appoint a Black woman to such a position. Our call of duty as journalists is to give voice to the voiceless, but in many ways journalists of color are part of that voiceless constituency. Does this have an effect on the coverage? Absolutely.  

Congratulations to Monica Richardson, who is not only a visionary leader, she cultivates strength and leadership in others. The Herald is so fortunate to have her join. https://t.co/GzqHKJahyM— Jamila Robinson (@JamilaRobinson) December 8, 2020

Travis Dixon, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, analyzed news and opinion media coverage between 2015 and 2016. “Overall, the findings show that news and opinion media outlets routinely and inaccurately portray Black families as sources of social instability in society and portray white families as sources of social stability in society, irrespective of facts to the contrary,” he wrote in the study.

He went on to report that “Black families represent 59% of the poor in news and opinion media but make up just 27% of the poor, according to official reports, while white families represent 17% of the poor in news and opinion media but make up 66% of the poor, according to official reports.” Black families are also overrepresented among welfare recipients and criminal activity. Media sources overrepresent Black people as criminals by 11 percentage points while underrepresenting white people as criminals by 39 percentage points, the study found.

Although disheartening, it’s not exactly shocking that the disparities exist. Newsroom workers are more likely to be white men than the average U.S. company, the Pew Research Center reported. More than 77% of reporters, editors, photographers, and videographers in the newspaper, broadcasting, and internet publishing industries are non-Hispanic white people, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of 2012-2016 American Community Survey data. In U.S. professions overall, 65% of workers are non-Hispanic white people.

Dixon recommended several action items to reverse the trend, including revising protocols for reporting on families and refusing to misrepresent Black people as criminals. “Corporate advertisers must take responsibility for sponsoring the steady campaign of misinformation and inaccurate representation led by right wing media outlets and revise their media buying protocols to incorporate standards of accuracy in assessing news platforms,” he said in the study.

I would add to the list addressing the serious barrier-to-entry problem. The Poynter Institute summed up that problem quite nicely in 2016 with the headline, “Want more journalists of color? Help pay for their internships.” Jean-Marie Brown, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University, told the institute about half of employers with internship programs offer college credit instead of “hourly wages.” That means over the summer, when many students complete internships, they are “effectively being asked to pay to work, because the only way you can earn internship credit is to be enrolled in internship class … This puts some students at a disadvantage,” she said. 

The protest movement that attracted national attention following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed when a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, has brought renewed attention to the need for more journalists of color. Omar Jimenez, a Black and Latino CNN correspondent, was arrested on live TV while covering the protests May 29. CNN tweeted at the time: “A black reporter from CNN was arrested while legally covering the protests in Minneapolis. A white reporter also on the ground was not.” Sage Goodwin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, wrote about the long history tied to misrepresentations of people of color in the media for The Washington Post. “The arrest of Omar Jimenez in particular highlights the vicious circle undergirding America’s continuing racial crisis,” she said. “If the country has any hope for creating a future where its black and brown citizens are viewed as equal and treated as such, the media landscape needs to change.

“This will come about only if African Americans are able to report while black.” 

A black reporter from CNN was arrested while legally covering the protests in Minneapolis. A white reporter also on the ground was not. https://t.co/GcfwEvyYQC pic.twitter.com/Mg4ZwKIuKt— CNN (@CNN) May 29, 2020

Several journalists of color have taken it upon themselves to help fix the problem they did not create, another disheartening trend. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” founded a trade organization with journalists Ron Nixon, Topher Sanders, and Corey Johnson to increase and retain journalists of color in investigative reporting. The Ida B. Wells Society For Investigative Reporting is named in honor of civil rights leader and prominent Black journalist Ida B. Wells.

Hannah-Jones tweeted Tuesday: “When we founded @IBWellsSociety , we refused to fund/ support investigative fellowships because for journos of color, they rarely end with an actual job. Instead, we’ve decided to fund the 1st yr of a permanent new investigative position @AP . I am SO proud of this. Please apply.”

When we founded @IBWellsSociety, we refused to fund/ support investigative fellowships because for journos of color, they rarely end with an actual job. Instead, we’ve decided to fund the 1st yr of a permanent new investigative position @AP. I am SO proud of this. Please apply. https://t.co/9Dcjzs5kMR— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) December 8, 2020

RELATED: Black journalist sues Pittsburgh paper for banning her from covering George Floyd protests

RELATED: Police racism on display as one CNN crew arrested, another ‘treated much differently’ in Minnesota

A Black woman is slated to become the first Black executive editor of the Miami Herald in the daily newspaper’s 117 year history. Monica Richardson, that woman and a former boss of mine at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has nearly 30 years of experience in the news business, the Miami Herald reported. “I don’t take that lightly,” Richardson told the newspaper. “It means a lot to me. It means a lot to my family. It means a lot to my ancestors. I’ll step into those shoes and work hard.”

When she starts Jan. 1, I’ll defintely be cheering her on, though admittedly from a somewhat conflicted place because let’s just call a duck a duck: It should not have taken more than a century to appoint a Black woman to such a position. Our call of duty as journalists is to give voice to the voiceless, but in many ways journalists of color are part of that voiceless constituency. Does this have an effect on the coverage? Absolutely.  

Congratulations to Monica Richardson, who is not only a visionary leader, she cultivates strength and leadership in others. The Herald is so fortunate to have her join. https://t.co/GzqHKJahyM

— Jamila Robinson (@JamilaRobinson) December 8, 2020

Travis Dixon, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, analyzed news and opinion media coverage between 2015 and 2016. “Overall, the findings show that news and opinion media outlets routinely and inaccurately portray Black families as sources of social instability in society and portray white families as sources of social stability in society, irrespective of facts to the contrary,” he wrote in the study.

He went on to report that “Black families represent 59% of the poor in news and opinion media but make up just 27% of the poor, according to official reports, while white families represent 17% of the poor in news and opinion media but make up 66% of the poor, according to official reports.” Black families are also overrepresented among welfare recipients and criminal activity. Media sources overrepresent Black people as criminals by 11 percentage points while underrepresenting white people as criminals by 39 percentage points, the study found.

Although disheartening, it’s not exactly shocking that the disparities exist. Newsroom workers are more likely to be white men than the average U.S. company, the Pew Research Center reported. More than 77% of reporters, editors, photographers, and videographers in the newspaper, broadcasting, and internet publishing industries are non-Hispanic white people, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of 2012-2016 American Community Survey data. In U.S. professions overall, 65% of workers are non-Hispanic white people.

Dixon recommended several action items to reverse the trend, including revising protocols for reporting on families and refusing to misrepresent Black people as criminals. “Corporate advertisers must take responsibility for sponsoring the steady campaign of misinformation and inaccurate representation led by right wing media outlets and revise their media buying protocols to incorporate standards of accuracy in assessing news platforms,” he said in the study.

I would add to the list addressing the serious barrier-to-entry problem. The Poynter Institute summed up that problem quite nicely in 2016 with the headline, “Want more journalists of color? Help pay for their internships.” Jean-Marie Brown, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University, told the institute about half of employers with internship programs offer college credit instead of “hourly wages.” That means over the summer, when many students complete internships, they are “effectively being asked to pay to work, because the only way you can earn internship credit is to be enrolled in internship class … This puts some students at a disadvantage,” she said. 

The protest movement that attracted national attention following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed when a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, has brought renewed attention to the need for more journalists of color. Omar Jimenez, a Black and Latino CNN correspondent, was arrested on live TV while covering the protests May 29. CNN tweeted at the time: “A black reporter from CNN was arrested while legally covering the protests in Minneapolis. A white reporter also on the ground was not.” Sage Goodwin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, wrote about the long history tied to misrepresentations of people of color in the media for The Washington Post. “The arrest of Omar Jimenez in particular highlights the vicious circle undergirding America’s continuing racial crisis,” she said. “If the country has any hope for creating a future where its black and brown citizens are viewed as equal and treated as such, the media landscape needs to change.

“This will come about only if African Americans are able to report while black.” 

A black reporter from CNN was arrested while legally covering the protests in Minneapolis. A white reporter also on the ground was not. https://t.co/GcfwEvyYQC pic.twitter.com/Mg4ZwKIuKt

— CNN (@CNN) May 29, 2020

Several journalists of color have taken it upon themselves to help fix the problem they did not create, another disheartening trend. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” founded a trade organization with journalists Ron Nixon, Topher Sanders, and Corey Johnson to increase and retain journalists of color in investigative reporting. The Ida B. Wells Society For Investigative Reporting is named in honor of civil rights leader and prominent Black journalist Ida B. Wells.

Hannah-Jones tweeted Tuesday: “When we founded @IBWellsSociety , we refused to fund/ support investigative fellowships because for journos of color, they rarely end with an actual job. Instead, we’ve decided to fund the 1st yr of a permanent new investigative position @AP . I am SO proud of this. Please apply.”

When we founded @IBWellsSociety, we refused to fund/ support investigative fellowships because for journos of color, they rarely end with an actual job. Instead, we’ve decided to fund the 1st yr of a permanent new investigative position @AP. I am SO proud of this. Please apply. https://t.co/9Dcjzs5kMR

— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) December 8, 2020

RELATED: Black journalist sues Pittsburgh paper for banning her from covering George Floyd protests

RELATED: Police racism on display as one CNN crew arrested, another ‘treated much differently’ in Minnesota

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