Diversity and inclusion seem to be on every university’s collective mind as they recruit and admit their next generation of students. A worthwhile goal, we are a long way from achieving true diversity both in higher education and ultimately in the workplace.
The newsroom is a prime example of an industry playing catchup when it comes to diversity.
According to the Pew Research Center, newsrooms are less diverse than the overall U.S. workplace. Three-quarters of news staffers are white, and six out of every 10 are male.
That is where programs like the Journalism Diversity Workshop for Arizona High School Students come in.
Long before diversity and inclusion became a motto of higher education, Donald W. Carson, a professor and director at the School of Journalism, saw the need to diversify America’s newsrooms. With this ambitious goal in mind, Carson created the workshop, now named after him, to educate high school students in journalism, and to encourage them to pursue journalism in higher education and in their careers.
The workshop, hosted at the University of Arizona School of Journalism since 1981, brings students together from all corners of the state, from Tucson to Douglas, San Tan Valley, Sells and Window Rock. Over the course of one week, students learn to report, interview and edit stories from faculty and local reporters, and design The Chronicle.
As a high school participant in 2007, I can tell you firsthand the benefits of attending this program. On top of learning the facets or reporting and editing, as well as learning how to tell the stories of our community, there are also the personal benefits.
I was very shy as a kid, and this followed me all the way up to high school. The workshop helped break me out of my shell in more ways than one.
First was learning how to call and approach complete strangers for interviews, which is a given in journalism, and then actually going to the interview and asking said strangers to divulge information to me.
The other major breakthrough was becoming a tight-knit community with my peers. After spending a week with a small group of people, bonds form naturally, which remain long after the workshop ends.
Students who come through the workshop are ambitious and set out to accomplish a daunting task in a short week. Many come from schools that do not have a journalism program, yet each year every student pulls through with amazing work.
For a second year, the workshop will focus on topics related to health and wellness. Last year, students covered stories ranging from postpartum depression to food deserts to herbs as an alternative to opioids. It goes without saying, but these students do not pick fluffy topics!
At the end of the week, students and their families gather to celebrate their achievements over the week. Participants share what they learned, what they reported and reminisce over their favorite moments and friendships made.
In the past, this has been a family and staff event, but this year, to highlight students’ work to the public, I invite you to join us in congratulating our participants.
I believe it is important that we, the adults, recognize what the coming generation of journalists, and young people in general, see in the world as the issues concerning them the most. Our youth are paying more attention than we give them credit for, and the Journalism Diversity Workshop is a perfect example of perspectives that deserve to be shared.