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Student Newspaper Diversity Training

March 2, 2012

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Every now and then independent student media get in a fix, and usually the chair, director or dean of journalism is tasked with trying to “fix the fix.”

You can read about what caused our problem and how I spent most of my day (week, really) by accessing this story.

Journalism administrators are used to conflicts of interest. It’s part of the job. You advocate for faculty in shared governance and enforce policies by superiors … and then are evaluated by both groups using different criteria.

It is the hardest job in the university.

That job becomes even harder when an accredited program, such as ours, has to “understand and apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press” while maintaining “a climate that is free of harassment and discrimination, in keeping with the acceptable cultural practices of the population it serves.”

When content of a student newspaper offends the audience its serves, these two standards may clash, and it becomes the journalism administrator’s role to explain what happened and what steps will be taken to prevent that from happening again all the while preserving the newspaper’s independence and upholding the First Amendment.

Fortunately for me, I have colleagues who work regularly with our student editors and reporters, and they will work with me on newsroom diversity training. Moreover, the student newspaper welcomed that training. (A bigger conflict of interest would have occurred if this was not the case.)

Today I outlined the format for our training session:
Each professor will take a segment: photography and online multicultural awareness, broadcasting and diversity, advertising and disability/identity, and journalism ethics and organizational communication.

Each segment should last about 15 minutes, because we do not want to preach to students, but stimulate critical thinking about inclusivity and multiculturalism.

Then we’ll break into small groups according to our subject area, with each one selecting a student as discussion leader.

The wrap-up will include reports by each small-group leader about proactive changes that can be instituted with respect to each subject matter.

We’re looking forward to working with the students.

Incidentally, the resources we will be using for our diversity training seminar can be found in the documents tab of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, housed at San Francisco State University.

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