Diversifying the Daily Trojan staff is the only way to accurately report on and represent marginalized communities
Throughout many newsrooms, on both a national and local level, the importance of diversity has become a paramount concern for journalism since it is still a majority-white field. The Daily Trojan is, unfortunately, not an exception to this pattern.
In the internal staff report, which was published two weeks ago and posted on the website, there was a visually apparent gender identity, sexuality, economic and race gap. Thirty-one percent of staffers are white; the smallest represented percentages were Middle Eastern, North African and Latinx members; few staff members identify as Native or Indigenous, per the report. Similarly, the staff is mostly straight at 73%, and there are no members who are non-cisgender identifying. The Daily Trojan is also made up of primarily high-income students.
The report acknowledged that the staff demographics were not meeting the Daily Trojan’s own standards of intersectionality. In this way, accountability is integral because it allows for an open dialogue of why diversity is so valuable and why it ought to be a top priority for newsrooms. Most people who are closed-minded or ignorant to the importance of diversity see diversifying the newsroom as another case of affirmative action — this could not be further from the truth. Some newsrooms had to learn firsthand how having a majority-white newsroom may lead to tough situations and negatively impact both the staff and community when covering communities that are not majority white.
For one blatant example, after the death of Kobe Bryant, the BBC aired footage of his life, but it was not Bryant’s photo on the screen; it was LeBron James’. Although the mistake was recognized, the damage had already been done. A staff that lacks diversity and representation can easily make mistakes like this, where two Black basketball players are mistaken to be the same person. It is also the case that a lack of representation within the newsroom produces gaps in what the staff reports on since there are no reporters who understand the lived experiences and perspectives of (or even think to report on) certain communities.
This has been the case at the Los Angeles Times, where a predominantly white newsroom failed to cover the many different non-white and low-income regions and communities in the city. Coverage of Black, Indigenous and people of color is also usually generalized and confined to crime reporting rather than celebrating events and people within said communities.
These cases all amount to a larger problem caused by a lack of diversity in the newsroom: white journalists have defined objective truth. In an op-ed in The New York Times, journalist Wesley Lowery explained how objectivity in reporting was decided by white reporters and is tendered to white readers: “Objective journalism is constructed atop a pyramid of subjective decision making of which stories to cover, how to cover them and which sources to seek out.”
The Daily Trojan, lacking decisively in the representation of non-white, non-cis gendered and low-income students, runs the risk every day of committing these mistakes in reporting on USC’s communities. Recognizing the staff’s lack of representation is the first step and, in the future, the demographics report will be useful for future recruitment. All things considered, though, this does not absolve the Daily Trojan of its lack of diversity this semester. The staff must be cognizant of how unintentional generalizations and clings to white-defined objectivity in reporting may cause harm to staff members and members of underrepresented communities right now — this must be at the forefront of reporters’ minds for the rest of this semester.
In the future, the Daily Trojan staff will hopefully honor its commitment to diversify the newsroom and recruit more students of different backgrounds in order to have rich and accurate reporting of each community at USC.