Stories from Media Professionals

Hello! I need your help telling “stories from the trenches” of life as a media maker.

The stories are for inclusion in a small book (print) I am putting together as part of the activities of the Diversity Committee at Colorado State University’s Department of Journalism & Media Communication.

Do you have some good stories about confronting assumptions, misconceptions, or misunderstandings related to multiculturalism and inclusion from your own work making media? Please submit them !

We’re looking for stories that will help readers of this book get a glimpse into the challenges faced by a Real Media Maker – experiences they might be able to relate to as they consider different perspectives. These will be in call-out boxes in the book after short blog-style essays on various topics.

Not sure what we’re looking for? Scroll down to take a look at the ones collected so far!

Submit your 150 – 350 word story by clicking the button below. It will take you to the entry form.

submit

Questions? Email Dr. Rosa Mikeal Martey, rosa.martey@colostate.edu.

Stories from Professionals
for inclusion in “Multiculturalism Matters: Perspectives and Guides about Diversity for Media Makers”

 


Michael Humphrey, teacher and journalist

“I wrote a long piece about a spoken word poetry regular event in KC’s jazz district. I was very proud of finding this and it took a long time to convince my editors to let me write about it. The resistance was that the section’s readership was largely white and older, while this event was largely young and black. And while I was able to convince my editors, finally, to let me write the piece, I gave in too much to this demographic demand. In the end what I did was to angle a piece toward an argument that this was ‘real’ art, meaning it had properties that white people perceive as ‘real’ art, a subtext that many in the African American community picked up and criticized. They were right.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been largely misunderstood for the very reasons that caused me my problems. Yes, it is very tempting to believe that all people share stories that are simply human. There is a basic humanity and it matters. But what I failed to see in my early years was the history matters, context matters and most importantly my privilege matters.

Elon James White often says to white men like me during debates about race and privilege, ‘You could just listen.’ I think as communicators we often forget that should be a large part of our job, to just listen.”


Kyle Cassidy, photographer

“In 2011, I got a press release from a group having a fat positive event and they’d asked if I’d cover it. As someone who’s struggled with his weight for a long time, I thought it would be great to support a fat-positive event.

So I went and there were lots of body positive fat people, but there were also some decidedly not-fat people there as allies, holding signs. I thought, “I should get a photo of these people too.” While I was shooting, one of the organizers said, “Do you want me in this photo too?” I said, “no, I got this,” because the photo had already formed in my head and the last thing any professional photographer wants is someone suggesting how you compose something. But she reacted strongly – she said “typical media!” in an angry and insulted way.

I felt bad, and I figured my shot was ruined anyway, but I wanted to try to repair the damage. So I said, “No, please get in the photo.” She said, “Now he’s backpeadling!” Everybody was upset. I was exasperated because I thought I was trying to help and I’d just made everybody angry.  That scene replays itself in my head not infrequently.

It’s been a valuable lesson… As a photographer I want the freedom to make the best images I’m able to, but I also need to be aware of how the media typically treats people and the things that they may be concerned with when inviting the media to their events.

I’ve learned that advocacy involves listening and not talking, amplifying voices that don’t get heard enough, but also going into a situation being aware that people who are marginalized shouldn’t be expected to be grateful because you think you’re being magnanimous; they have more important things to deal with every day.”


Anna Lauren Hoffman, postdoctoral scholar at University of California, Berkeley, and blogger

“Recently, I wrote a brief editorial featured on a women-focused tech industry website. The piece discusses how gendered and racial biases arise out of seemingly “neutral” data or designs.

Then the editorial went live. And without my knowledge or approval they used an image of a well-muscled, shirtless Black man from behind. You can’t see his face, but you can see that he is wearing a snapback and Beats headphones. In other words, the editors decided to put a faceless Black body on display to accompany a white writer’s discussion of bias and privilege in tech design.

I was angry and frustrated and I wrote them and asked them to change the picture or take the piece down altogether.

Certainly, I had no or little control over much of this. But I was the one gaining a byline and recognition, so I don’t feel like I can totally shirk responsibility. I am the one that stands to benefit, however minimally, so I can’t escape all culpability (hence my frenzied email yelling to get things changed).

Fortunately, they responded and changed it quickly. But I also think it’s important to be forthright and talk about these things when they do happen rather than quietly changing things and sweeping them under the rug, if only to raise awareness and improve practice in the future. We can all – always – do better.”


Tonie Miyamoto, Director of Communications and Sustainability, CSU Housing & Dining Services

“The videographer on my team is a person of color and deeply committed to inclusion and diversity. He produced a series of web videos on campus that we felt were authentic and told the student story in a very genuine fashion. Our visible diversity on campus is around 20% so it is always a balance to highlight diversity and inclusion without going overboard and misrepresenting our population as more diverse than it truly is.

We featured both visible and invisible identities and used the students’ words to tell their own story. We were really proud of the outcome and were devastated when we received feedback from one of the stakeholders that the videos weren’t diverse enough.

The take home lesson is ensuring that all stakeholders share the same vision for diversity and inclusion going into a project. We now ask in advance of each project, “What does success look like?” and “What are your expectations around diversity and inclusion?”

It’s amazing how varied the responses can be and how often clients say they want a focus on diversity and inclusion but they haven’t given any thought to what their goals are or what that means to them. As communicators, we see ourselves as advocates for telling the whole story and that means representing multiple perspectives and viewpoints.”


Ron Comings, former TV news director

“As a white man, I never really had any issues personally with work related identity. However, as a news director, I had experience with employees who had work related identity issues. For example, we often found a need for reporters who could speak Spanish. So we tended to hire Hispanic reporters. My goal was always to find journalists who could bring stories to the table about our Hispanic community that were not familiar to the rest of my staff.

Most of us were not really equipped to go to the Mexican food markets here and pick up on the local conversations. But that’s where the big neighborhood stories were being discussed. The Hispanic reporters we hired, I believe, wanted to be accepted on the same terms as the rest of the reporting staff. So they wanted to cover the same stories as all the other reporters. There was a reluctance to bring stories from the Hispanic community to the morning editorial meeting.

Not until I repeatedly preached about the importance of serving our Hispanic audience did the Spanish-speaking reporters start to generate stories about Hispanics. I had to push the entire staff to engage in conversations about stories dealing with our Hispanic audience and from those discussions, we all learned how much we did not know about a group of people making up almost a third of our audience!”


Amy Guttmann, Creative Director, SE2

“Our Hispanic insights expert was asked to consult on a television shoot for a Colorado nonprofit that was producing a million-dollar marketing/communication campaign about healthy eating. They concepted the advertising in English first, wrote the script, then translated it and headed into production to create both English and Spanish versions.

Their team was in L.A. literally on set. They sent my colleague a rough cut of their Spanish-language TV spot, asking for his thoughts on pronunciation, the casting, the visuals and any other red flags that might pop up before they finalized the work and flew back to CO.

My colleague had been pushing to be involved earlier in the project but was told that they didn’t have the budget to bring him in early on and that his best use was just as a final set of eyes before launching the campaign.

Much to their surprise, his feedback turned everything upside down. Their ad, which was a spot suggesting that kids drink water or juice instead of soda, had a major flaw. It talked about how families should avoid “cola”…and little did the nonprofit know, but “cola” in Spanish means butt.”

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