Editorial: Media needs to work to reach minorities — for every story
For years now, The State News’ motto has been simple: “Michigan State University’s independent student voice.”
That’s where it starts, and ends — with mistakes on our side.
As journalists, we try to cover everything. But we’re not always successful.
Even when given a story, journalists can and do mess up.
We make mistakes, and one of our biggest is overlooking minority stories.
In a 2007 documentary about Penn State University’s student newspaper, the Daily Collegian, black student groups grow increasingly frustrated throughout the year with a lack of diversity in the newsroom’s reporting.
That frustration boils over when the students hold a press conference to air their concerns about campus, and the article calls it a “rally” — a term with an intense, angry connotation too easily assigned to black organizers.
In this instance, the Daily Collegian lost the trust of its audience.
Undoubtedly, The State News has contributed to this distrust within portions of our own audience.
We recognize our coverage is too often skewed toward the “white male from Oakland County.”
Minorities have always been underrepresented in news coverage, and groups that are included in the narrative are not always represented fairly or accurately.
For that, we are sorry. We take full responsibility for the times we’ve been tone deaf or ignorant.
In failing to represent those groups fairly and accurately, we do a disservice to not just those audiences, but all of our readers.
We recognize talking with minorities and marginalized groups can’t be something we simply do once a year for this MLK issue.
Equality is not a trending topic or clickbait. It is — and should be — a never-ending conversation.
The best thing we can do to solve the issue is to keep communication lines open both ways.
On one hand, we can’t fix things if we don’t realize they’re broken. We need our readers, our voice, to keep us in check.
Still, as journalists, the burden falls on us to do more than encourage you to hand these stories to us. We have to actively seek those stories out.
This doesn’t just mean reporting on the latest act of racism and seeking out predictably angry responses. It’s all too easy to swoop in when issues are aplenty, or when there’s a major news story we can’t ignore.
Too often, that’s what “minority coverage” is: something happens that hurts an already-repressed community, and we ask them to relive it and explain why it makes them mad so we can have something to print.
We want to go beyond that, and report on the victories Spartans of all backgrounds achieve.
MSU is home to Puerto Rican students Angelica Medina-Cucurella and Sylmarie Davila-Montero, who organized a collection drive for hurricane victims in their home country.
They serve as one of many examples of the amazing hearts and minds The State News too often overlooks.
Minority groups deserve to be recognized for more than their struggles. While personal strife is surely important, only seeking out those stories is only seeking out half the truth. Only seeking out those stories means we’re not doing our job.
By committing to changing this, hopefully we can break the narrative that angry voices are the only ones that matter to the mainstream press.
This is why newspapers are published: to report on the issues and events that affect everyone’s lives, not just issues and events that affect the majority.
We want to make sure we do our part to promote a truly welcoming environment, where saying “your life matters” is a truth, not a catchphrase.
We can do better, and we will. That’s our promise to an audience that’s much more diverse than our coverage suggests.
We want to be every student’s voice.
If you have experienced racial bias or violence and want to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the newsroom at (517) 295-5149. To report experienced racial bias or violence to local authorities, call MSUPD at (517) 355-2221 or the ELPD at (517) 351-4220.
The State News Editorial Board is made up of the Editor-in-Chief Rachel Fradette, Managing Editor McKenna Ross, Campus Editor Madison O’Connor, City Editor Souichi Terada, Features Editor Sasha Zidar, Sports Editor Jonathan LeBlanc, Inclusion Representative Maxwell Evans, Staff Representative Marie Weidmayer and Copy Chief Casey Holland.