Friday, October 22, 2021

The State News' Summer 2021 diversity report

September 22, 2021
State News spring 2021 print issues photographed on April 19.
State News spring 2021 print issues photographed on April 19. —

The State News began publication in 1909; clearly, a lot about the world has changed since then. We’ve changed with it. 

Just last year, we published our very first semesterly staff diversity report. We believe that in order to bring new perspectives into our coverage, we need to have people working in our newsroom that understand those perspectives. 

As conversations about racial equity and inclusion continue to make their way to the forefront of our lives, we believe it is important to tell you about the people who are writing your news. 

We have started this initiative to be transparent about what people make up our staff and any intrinsic biases we may possess. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion are deeply important to us. As we prepare for our coverage this fall semester, we are stressing the importance of reaching out to different people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. 

This report helps to guide The State News editors to lead our newsroom to continue to be more inclusive each semester.

Racial breakdown

This summer, The State News newsroom staff consisted of 17 MSU students. All 17 students responded to our staff demographics survey.

During the summer 2021 semester, 10 staffers, or 58.8% of our staff self-identified as white. 

One student identified as mixed race, self-identifying as white, Native American and Asian or Asian American, the other staff members self-identified as follows:

11.8% Black

5.9% Indian, Indian American

5.9% Hispanic, Latinx

11.8% Asian, Asian American

In 2020, MSU reported that the student population, including undergraduate and graduate/professional students, was 66.5% white. Students of color made up 33.5% of the student population. The breakdown was:

7.2% Black

0.3% American Indian, Alaska Native

6.5% Asian, Asian American

0.1% Hawaiian, Pacific Islander

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5.6% Hispanic, Latinx

3.3% two or more races

9.1% international

1.4% other, unknown, blank

MSU did not track data on Indian or Indian American identifying students. 

Gender

Similar to last year, a majority of The State News staff is female-identifying with 64.7% female to 35.3% male. 

No students self-identified as transgender or nonbinary.

In fall 2020, women made up 52.6% of all students at MSU, according to the university diversity report.

First generation

About 70.6% of staff members reported that they were not first generation students, and 29.4% reported they were first generation students.

At MSU, 22.5% off all undergraduate students self-identified as first generation. 

Sexuality

In response to sexual orientation, 13 of our 17 staff members self-identified as heterosexual. Two staffers dentified themselves as bisexual, and asexual and homosexual had one respondent each.

Michigan State’s 2020 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report and plan did not list or specify a number or percentage breakdown of students by sexual orientation. 

In the comments section of our staff diversity survey, a reporter said they would like to see improved coverage in this area. 

Year in school

This summer, a majority of our staff was made up by third year students.

No freshman were on staff because we typically only offer summer employment opportunities to people who have worked with us previously. This is because in the summer we work with a smaller staff.

Eight staffers are incoming juniors, six staffers are incoming seniors and three incoming sophomores.

Majority of staffers are in state students

One of our largest disparities in newsroom staff representation is between in state, out of state and international students. 

Of our 17 summer staffers, 15 responded that they were from Michigan, while out of state and international received one response each. 

These numbers directly correlate with where our staffers said we could improve staff representation most. 

According to the university’s Fall 2020 Enrollment Report, 80% of undergraduate students at Michigan State are from Michigan. The State News’ 88.2% is slightly higher than  the university’s number.

According to the report, 13.1% of undergraduate students were out of state students. 

The same report lists that 6.9% of undergraduates are international students. This percentage was the lowest it has been in 10 years. This report was for the first semester of an academic year following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The number of international student we had between spring 2021 and summer 2021 remained the same, but his summer we had seven fewer out of state.

Where to improve coverage

While it is true that we will always be able to improve our coverage in any and all areas, we asked staffers to specifically share where they thought we were lacking. 

Of our 17 staff members, 11 — or 64.7% — said they would like to see more coverage for people from different socioeconomic classes and for students that aren’t from Michigan. One reporter said they feel as though there is a huge gap in coverage for international students specifically. 

Nine responses also clarified that we should be doing more to provide coverage for first generation students and the specific struggles they may face. 

Staffers also said we can be doing more to provide adequate coverage of race, sexuality and gender.

Four staffers said we should be doing more to reach out to different people from different majors here at the university, and two people said our coverage should expand to different grades and years of students at MSU. 

The form had the option to add other individual choices, and someone added “Cultures and festivals” themselves.   

Where to improve staffing

Just as we always strive to improve representation of diverse people and communities in our reporting, we do the same in our newsroom. 

We believe in order to ensure our coverage is diverse, the people who make up that coverage must represent a wide range of communities as well. We value having staff members with different backgrounds and perspectives because this helps us stay knowledgeable and objective in our reporting. 

Our summer staff reporters responded with feeling The State News could improve most in its representation of out of state and international students. This correlates with our data. Of the 17 summer staff members, just one identified as an out of state student and one identified as an international student. Eight of our 17 staff members said The State News could improve most in its representation of individuals from this community. 

Race and gender both received seven votes for the area where The State News can most improve its staffing. 

One student said The State News should improve most on its representation of first generation graduate students. 

This article is a part of our Welcome Week print issue. The full issue can be viewed here.

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