Journalism Educators Association Aims to Step Up Diversity Efforts

CHICAGO

The incoming president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) says that she plans to use her post to rally for increased diversity within the 96-year-old nonprofit organization. AEJMC is composed of journalism and mass communications faculty, administrators, students and media professionals from around the world.

Dr. Barbara B. Hines, a professor and director of the graduate program in mass communication and media studies at Howard University, is the 14th woman to serve as president of AEJMC. While progress has been made, she says to diversify the organization much more needs to be done.

“It wasn’t until the 1970s that women and then minorities started to become members of the academy and at that time there was really a recognition, in the early 1970s that we needed to be more diverse both in gender and ethnicity,” says Hines, who has taught at Howard University since 1984.

In response to the lack of diversity, AEJMC, under the leadership of Dr. Lionel C. Barrow, who is now professor emeritus of communications at Howard University, established an Ad Hoc Committee on Minority Education, which was designed to recruit, train and place minorities at universities across the country. Today, the Minorities and Communication Division is still active, but challenges remain. AEJMC is currently undergoing a strategic plan and is brainstorming ways to attract more minorities to the organization.

Its diversity efforts include establishing the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on the Status of Minorities in 1990. In 1992, Tony Atwater of Rutgers University took the helm, becoming the first African American to lead the organization. Also that year, AEJMC created the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Interest Group.

Last week, more than a 2,500 people — mostly academics — gathered here for the annual convention to present scholarly research papers and participate in panel discussions on topics ranging from the media’s impact on the 2008 presidential campaign to the way that the U.S. press has traditionally covered recent acts of genocide abroad. Many conference-goers complained that this year’s convention still lacked a strong minority presence and pointed to the declining numbers of minorities in communication and journalism departments at colleges and universities across the nation. More needs to be done, they say, to encourage schools to aggressively recruit and hire young minority talent.

“I think the organization is taking some good first steps, but I think that more can be done,” says Dr. Tayo Oyedeji, assistant professor of telecommunications at the University of Georgia. Oyedeji, who joined AEJMC three years ago while a graduate student at the University of Missouri, believes that the organization should aggressively target graduate students and faculty at historically Black colleges and universities.

“There seems to be very few representations from Black colleges at these conventions,” says Oyedeji, who presented a research paper on media management in economics at the conference.

The lack of minorities in communications departments at colleges and universities mirrors the overall lack of minorities who are actually working in the industry. In print journalism for example, the American Society of Newspaper Editors reports that minorities account only for about 11 percent of the professional newsroom workplace in the country.

It’s an issue Hines is planning to address head on.

“Our membership is composed of people who are all over the world teaching journalism and mass communications,” she says. “We are in a public service job trying to shape minds, and build leaders for the future and we have to make sure that the people who are doing the talking and doing the educating really understand what a melting pot we are and that we need to bring to the table all of our different voices.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained factual errors that have since been corrected. The story should have said that Tony Atwater was the first African American to lead AEJMC from 1992 to 1993. The Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on the Status of Minorities and the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Interest Group were established several years earlier than reported. Diverse regrets the error.  

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