Some of us were at a network lunch table today devoted to discussion of how SEJ can help increase the diversity of voices reporting the news and serving as news sources.
The discussion, led by Ayana Meade, co-chair of SEJ's diversity task force, included four current SEJ board members, two former board members, one Latino scientist, three journalists who had been laid off, one member who joined last week, two members who were at SEJ's first conference 21 years ago, several African American journalists, several European American journalists, one Canadian and French journalist, one Middle Eastern American journalist, several freelancers and two news entrepreneurs.
It was a diverse group. But it wasn't really big enough to fully address the issues. We need your help.
Here's a sampling of some ideas we kicked around for increasing diversity among SEJ members, in the media in general, and in news coverage:
* Steve Curwood of Living on Earth suggested that SEJ should try hosting a future conference at a historically black college or university -- or possibly at such an institution that partners with other nearby colleges and universities. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical Univeristy was mentioned as one good candidate because it has a large journalism program and is close to Florida State University. Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe noted that there are several HBCUs in or near Atlanta that also might be able to co-host a conference.
* Emilio Bruna, a plant ecologist and speaker from the University of Florida, suggested that we might want to pull together a directory of experts of color who could be quoted on environmental issues, instead of "the same old silverbacks." I love that term!
* Ayana Meade reported that SEJ's task force has an open listserv for SEJ members and anyone else who might be interested in discussing issues of diversity and environmental journalism. Go to the SEJ homepage and follow the links to sign up.
* Curwood offered several excellent suggestions about where to get funding to bring professional and student journalists of color to SEJ conferences. He also wondered if the people who give out the Goldman prize might be interested in bringing their prize-winners to SEJ conferences as sources. Board members Christy George and Peter Fairley took copious notes.
* Several people, including Jackson, spoke about the potential impact of bringing student journalists of color to SEJ conferences. Adrianne Appel suggested that we might seek funding to continue the student journalism project started at this conference and perhaps give student fellowship winners the job of blogging about future conferences.
* Noting that indigenous people are often involved in environmental stories yet are rarely represented in significant numbers at SEJ conferences, we wondered if it might be possible to seek grants to change that situation.
* We also wondered if it would be possible to ask SEJ members to list the other journalism groups to which they belong. That way we could ask SEJ members who might be going to the conventions of the four largest journalists-of-color organizations to spread around some SEJ membership forms and SEJournals.
* Those four organizations are the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association. Next August, three of them (all except NABJ) are meeting jointly in August. We wondered if SEJ could have a presence at this convention, called Unity, which happens just once every four years.
What do you think? What can you do to help?