It’s sometimes hard to make changes. When we’re accustomed to thinking about things in a certain way, and it’s a difficult process to step back and look at the big picture objectively enough to see where change needs to take place.
The feature stories in this issue are about changes – changes in thought, changes in direction, changes in philosophy. The changes are good ones, but the processes through which those changes come about are long and difficult.
On Page 16, we examine the movement in the journalism profession to diversify newsrooms. Recognizing the need for diverse staffs is not new – diversity has been a slowly growing goal for decades – but using that realization to change things has been a long struggle, and many programs have fallen short of their goals. The American Society of Newspaper Editors had set the goal of “parity” – making the racial makeup of newsrooms reflect that of their communities – but has pushed back the original deadline from 2000 to 2025. And the challenge hasn’t been just to attract journalists with diverse backgrounds. Keeping journalists of color is an ongoing problem for many papers, and many newsroom managers have begun to shift their focus from recruitment to retention.
The push for diversity has made a difference, though. On Page 18, read about the initiatives at several papers to make their newsrooms more reflective of their communities. Those papers point to their coverage as evidence that diversity is about more than political correctness; significant changes in staffing have led to more complete reporting.
Besides diversifying the pool of journalists in the newsroom, managers are working to further develop the skills of the current newsroom leaders. Editors, many of whom were thrown into their own positions with little training or preparation, are beginning to recognize the value of offering training to their own employees in new management positions.
Street-smart reporters have always prided themselves on the ability to “figure it out” – whether “it” meant the angles of a breaking story, the complexities of a new beat or the ins and outs of newsroom management. But more and more newsrooms are recognizing the importance – and benefits – of training employees who are moved through the ranks to management positions. The traditional theory of “they made a good reporter, so they’ll make a good editor” isn’t always true, and many editors are realizing that different skills are required for those different positions.
On Page 10, read about editors who are debunking the traditional myth by finding ways to train their editing staff – and how some new managers are still left to figure things out on their own. Change is often difficult, but it is especially difficult when money is tight.
On Page 22, we asked four veteran design educators to talk about the changes in news design in the past 30 years or so. Their answers all fall in a similar pattern – the fundamentals of design have remained constant, even though the applications of those principles have evolved.
It’s easy to get lost in the traditional definitions of how we do our work, but it’s important to occasionally reexamine the accepted attitudes and expectations of the journalism profession.
Important changes are taking place, but slowly; they only become reality when individual news organizations make those changes a priority. I hope the stories in this issue will help illustrate what a difference some of those changes can make.
Jeff Mohl is the editor of Quill.