Nikole Hannah-Jones: Lack Of Diversity Skews School Coverage

Check out this Media Matters for America video segment (The Whiteness Of The Media Is A Slow-Motion Train Wreck | Blog) featuring the NYT’s Nikole Hannah-Hones talking about how journalists’ backgrounds and newsroom diversity hinders and skews coverage of education and other key issues.

The segment is a riff on the recent dismissal of Melissa Harris-Perry from MSNBC, which leaves the once-progressive cable news channel without one of its most prominent journalists of color and without one of the shows that featured a diverse set of panelists.

Some key quotes from Hannah-Jones — many of which relate directly to coverage of education — include:

“White is normative, and so there’s a sense that white white journalists are neutral and that they are able to see everything in a neutral, unbiased way, but of course that’s not true.” 

“If you’re a white journalist who grew up in a community where your interactions with police are respectful, where your schools aren’t segregated and you have quality teachers, that is is definitely going to bleed into how you’re covering schools…”

“It’s not that these errors are intentional… Not having that diversity just means that one side of the story tends to get told and that there isn’t pushback… What’s important is to say, ‘I know i’m coming from this perspective , how do I mitigate that with my reporting to make sure that it’s fair?’

I don’t always agree with MMFA’s take on education news. Its roundup of ‘worst” education coverage of 2015 was more ideological than quality-based, for example. Its take on the controversial TIME “bad apples” cover and story was shallow. 

But the MMFA education page does a good job of catching right-wing outlets and hosts making ridiculous claims (such as Rush Limbaugh’s conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton and a young gay student, or Bill O’Reilly’s rant against restorative justice).  

And it was MMFA that pointed out how few educators were featured on cable news education segments (few of those that there are):

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

For these things and this latest segment about newsroom diversity, I’m grateful that MMFA is there holding both conservative and liberal media feet to the fire.

I’ve been increasingly concerned about the lack of diversity in education journalism particularly. (See my recent posts Just How White Is Education Journalism?? and Efforts To Recruit More Journalists Of Color To Cover Education.) I am hoping that by bringing some constructive attention to it I can help improve the current situation.

Related posts: Media Matters’ Worst Education Journalism Of 2015Clinton Jumps On “Humans Of New York” Bandwagon (Limbaugh Cries Foul)Too Few Educators On Cable News — And Too Few Education Segments, TooCritical Roundup Of MSNBC’s “Mixed” ReportingTIME Editor Defends Controversial Vergara Story & Cover.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.