Politico's List of 53 'Journalists to Watch in 2014' Doesn't Have a Single Person of Color - Wonder Why?


A few months ago, I wrote a commentary for the Guardian about how unpaid internships create an unfair funnel system to media outlets. They create a homogenous voice that excludes those who don't have the money or privilege to work for free. This, to me, is the biggest challenge facing the media. Cities like New Orleans, Chicago's South Side or Gary, Indiana are underrepresented or misrepresented in the media because there aren't enough journalists who come from those or similar areas to tell the stories.

The proof of the "blacking out" of the media has shown its face again in a Politico list of US journalists to watch in 2014. The list doesn't have a single person of color on it. Politico's list spans almost every major publication or media outlet in the country from ESPN to CNN and beyond. The Politico article mentions these reporters' great work in the areas of politics, sports, and more, but where is the diversity? Do we honestly not have any journalists of color in the upper tier?

What's preventing these publications from allowing top stories to be told from diverse perspectives? Some publications claim they just can't find the talent. Since unpaid internships create unfair advantages for those of privilege and higher class, it's up to publications to dig deeper than the unpaid internship application pool to find talent. They're mishandling their responsibilities as presenters of news and coverage of every aspect of the American and international community by hiring and championing only one corner of society – Caucasians – as the providers of news.

Some will argue that it doesn't make a difference what race journalists are. Surely a good journalist can tell any story? That may be true on some level, but looking back at 2013 – stories like the Mother's Day shooting in New Orleans, Chicago gun violence, reasons for incongruous employment rates or the prison system have all been underreported this year. I honestly believe that part of the reason this happens is because these stories may not register with people who don't come from these cities or environments.

If you go to GQ's contributor page on their website, you'll see 53 names but not a single African-American. This isn't to single out or scapegoat one of my favorite magazines, but I've always been bothered by the lack of articles pertaining to my background or those my peers and I share. As a result, we have situations like their Man Of The Year issue where they interviewed rapper Kendrick Lamar for their cover and the artist and his label spoke out against the way the rapper was covered.

The writer made tone deaf mentions of Lamar's record label and compared it to Suge Knight's Death Row label – a tie to 90s Hip-Hop violence – while also mentioning his "surprise" at the label's discipline. Would this have happened if GQ had someone on staff who grew up in Lamar's Compton, California (near Los Angeles) or somewhere similar that he raps about? Or had a Hip-Hop specialist? Can GQ's unpaid interns who can afford to work for free for 40 hours a week relate to the struggles Kendrick Lamar raps about? I'm honestly not sure, but these are the benefits of having diversity in the ranks. Again, this isn't to single out GQ as their situation is mostly just symptomatic of a larger problem affecting journalism.

Often, I hear representatives from publications tell me they just can't find talent unless they get applications for internships first. However, the internet is full of thousands of people writing about issues from diverse perspectives every day. There are blogs, websites and even Twitter feeds full of brilliant, poignant and diverse writing pushing envelopes and driving conversations. These writers just need bigger platforms to affect change and shed light on issues.

Publications also need to stay in tune with issues affecting other cultures. There isn't a better breeding ground for future writers than articles that go "viral" or even get a modicum of social media traction. At the very least, publications can offer freelance features to these writers.

It's a publication's social responsibility to cover all aspects of a larger culture. By sticking to unpaid interns or a comfort zone of the same writers and staff, journalism suffers and important American stories are being underrepresented and ignored. Hopefully, by this time next year, Politico will have a more diverse list and we'll be looking back on a 2014 in which the glass ceiling in journalism was finally shattered.

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