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Columbia University Honors Outstanding Coverage of Race and Ethnicity

Columbia University Honors Outstanding Coverage of Race and Ethnicity


      Seventeen news organizations were recognized as “best practice” award winners on the coverage of race and ethnicity in the eighth annual Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s “Let’s Do It Better!” Workshop competition.

      The competition brings some of the top newspaper and broadcast journalists to the school to deconstruct their work on race and ethnicity coverage in America. The work is turned into presentations for an audience of news industry leaders and managers, who attend a workshop in June designed to help them improve the diversity of their content and newsroom.

      “The excellence awards recognized a variety of best practices, ranging from major investigations to the search for racial identity,” says Arlene Morgan, director of the program, adding that this year’s competition drew more than 100 entries, mostly from newspapers.

      Sponsored by the Ford Foundation, this year’s workshop will mark the debut of a new multimedia textbook, The Authentic Voice: The Best Reporting on Race and Ethnicity, a compilation of stories and broadcasts recognized over the past seven years by the program.

      The Chicago Reporter and its editor and publisher, Alysia Tate, led the honoree list, winning the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, the highest recognition the school gives for newspaper reporting on racial issues.

      A career achievement leadership award for diversity went to Wanda Lloyd, the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. Her staff also won an award for overall excellence based on two special supplements, one marking the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott, and the other honoring Rosa Parks.

      Bill Dedman and Steve Doig, authors of an annual report on newspaper hiring, were honored with a special recognition for their exhaustive study of the newspaper industry’s minority employment trends. The study, sponsored by the Knight Foundation, examined newspaper hiring trends from 1990 to 2005 and found that newsroom diversity had “passed its peak” at most newspapers.

      “If we have seen one thing since this project started, it’s the increase of serious work from every size newspaper, Morgan says. “Hiring and retaining journalists of color continues to be a problem, but good work is being accomplished, and that is the goal of this program.”

      “The downside,” she says, “is that we rarely find anything of merit on the local television side. While local television may look diverse with its anchors, reporters and weather people, our competition shows that in terms of well-conceived stories, it lags way behind in comparison to the networks, cable, public television and newspapers. This is a real concern since many people use the local news stations to keep up with what’s going on in their communities.”

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