Wrong Way Out

Why push diversity when you can complain?

Why would Olivas, Olmeda, and Diaz all react to a student newspaper? Perhaps it's the potential effect on project funding. Or maybe it's that they have deluded themselves into believing that Parity is succeeding. "To have a board member say something like this would be of some concern to both myself and the board," Olivas explains. "I vehemently disagree with the fact that this program is failing." He (and Diaz) argue that no major papers have signed on because the project targets newspapers with an "unrepresentative percentage of Latino journalists in their newsrooms."

Then he attacks the Latino Reporter: "It is not like we are dealing with the New York Times here; we are dealing with someone who is learning."

Reality check.

The Hispanic Journalists are killing the messenger. One issue is the veracity of the quote. But there's a second, more important one. America needs more Hispanic media people. Minorities make up less than half what they should in newsrooms across the country (about fourteen percent), and Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Newsrooms everywhere, particularly here in Miami, need Spanish-speaking reporters to report the news.

And the current strategy isn't working.

Trying to shape the news is no way to be true to our trade. More aggressive action is needed. Diaz couldn't recall the numbers at his employer — the Washington Post — but it's likely they aren't good enough to influence the nation's decision makers.


Letter to the Editor

I’d like to clarify some issues that Chuck Strouse raised in his column about the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Parity Project.

The Parity Project’s goal is to go after the nation’s “worst offenders” — the newspapers throughout the country that have the fewest Latino staffers even though the Latino communities around them are rapidly growing.

In the three years that the program has been working, we’ve increased the number of Latino journalists working at the first eighteen media companies we’ve partnered with by 40 to 100 percent. The Rocky Mountain News has doubled the number of Latino journalists working at the newspaper.

In fact the latest ASNE diversity study, which was released in April, found that Parity Project newspapers outpaced the industry in the number of Latinos hired.

But the Parity Project isn’t just about hiring Latino staffers. It is a holistic program that trains Latino staffers and offers informational sessions and town hall meetings for newsroom staffers so they can better understand the burgeoning communities they need to cover. Another part of the project is bringing in community leaders to critique the paper and help strengthen its goal of more inclusive coverage.

The Parity Project never sought directly to increase the number of Latino staffers at large metro dailies such as the New York Times because those papers are not among the “worst offenders.” The strategy was decidedly suburban. NAHJ’s staff continues to work with the recruiters of large news organizations outside the Parity Project to find potential staffers.

Strouse goes into detail about a he-said/she-said disagreement over a quote that ran in the convention newspaper. Financial director Sam Diaz says he was misquoted by the student. The editor of the paper defends the accuracy of the quote attributed to him, but stops there. The truth is that the quote does not reflect the way Sam feels about the success of the Parity Project. Journalism is not supposed to be about the “gotcha” quote, in which the treasurer of an association characterizes its signature project as a failure. In journalism, accuracy is a big part of the game. Truth is supposed to be bigger, and the truth was not served by that quote. It warranted a clarification that it never received.

But let the record be clear on the Parity Project. It has dramatically altered the newsrooms everywhere it is in place. As the number of Parity Project partners rise, we will see our numbers increase, one newsroom at a time. The news industry is failing the parity goal. The Parity Project is one program fighting against the tide. To say it is not successful is to miss the point entirely.

Rafael Olmeda, president
National Association of Hispanic Journalists

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