‘Diverse workforce key for success of newsrooms’

Convocation of ACJ-Bloomberg postgraduate course held

May 12, 2018 01:01 am | Updated 08:33 am IST - CHENNAI

 Students pose with their certificates after the convocation of the ACJ - Bloomberg postgraduate course in Chennai on Friday.

Students pose with their certificates after the convocation of the ACJ - Bloomberg postgraduate course in Chennai on Friday.

The senior executive editor for talent, diversity, standards and training at Bloomberg News said on Friday that maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce was not just the right thing to do for newsrooms: it was vital to their success.

Laura Zelenko was delivering the Convocation address of the first batch of the ACJ-Bloomberg postgraduate programme in Business and Financial Journalism. Later, Ms. Zelenko gave away degree certificates to 19 graduates.

Ms. Zelenko quoted the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ 2017 survey of more than 1,000 news organisations in the U.S. She pointed out that 83% of the workforce as well as the leadership was white across all newsrooms. Black journalists accounted for 5.6% of the workforce; women made up 39% of the total workforce. Not a single woman was in one of the top three leadership positions in 25% of the media organisations surveyed.

“.... with all of our progress, I often still find myself as the only woman in a meeting, and by far the majority of my meetings are with only white people,” she said.

Ms. Zelenko also said that diversity also affected the stories that newsrooms chose to divert their resources to. She wondered if American news organisations would have latched on to the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 earlier if the African Americans covered the Federal Reserve: banks targeted blacks to sell their higher-risk home loans.

Ms. Zelenko said that diversity also affected the way newsrooms produced stories. “I have to admit, I didn’t always think this way and I am constantly surprising myself with my own lack of understanding of the biases that persist in the newsroom,” she said.

She went on to narrate an incident involving a story, written by a female reporter from Bloomberg, about harassment at big banks in New York. A senior male editor had worked on it; the reporter asked Ms. Zelenko for her opinion on the product. “I said it read like a joke, like it wasn’t taking the issues seriously, there was some nuance in the writing that wasn’t there. She asked me, well isn’t there a woman who could edit this story instead? I looked around the room and realised we had a dearth of senior female editors in a position to take over that story,” she said.

‘More intelligent’

“Business journalism is very often more intelligent than garden variety or general journalism,” said N. Ram, chairman, The Hindu Group of Publications.

Despite its stellar practitioners, Mr. Ram said business journalism in India had a mixed reputation. He said the only antidote to that was the “ACJ-Bloomberg Way,” after the organisation’s famed guide for reporters and editors.

Sashi Kumar, chairman, the Asian College of Journalism, gave his introductory remarks. Parry Ravindranathan, Managing Director - International, Bloomberg Media, was felicitated.

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