Gilliam, Ifill: The Nation’s Newsrooms Still Lack Diversity

The nation still has a long way to go to diversifying America’s newsrooms. This was the pervading message from Dorothy Gilliam, WaPo‘s first female black reporter, and PBS’ Gwen Ifill discussing the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington last night at the National Press Club. The event was Marvin Kalb’s “Kalb Report.”

Kalb said more than 60 WaPo reporters covered the event, but the next day–shockingly–there was no mention of Martin Luther King or of his speech. Gilliam spoke of WaPo‘s coverage of the march, saying the newspaper focused on the violence.

She explained she was on maternity leave at the time and imagined how things might have been different had there been a black editor at the table making coverage decisions. “The whole focus was on violence and there was no violence,” she said. “I believe if there had been more racial diversity, if there had been a black editor among the people making the decisions…there were three black people on the whole staff, none of them decision makers.”

Ifill agreed, but stressed that today’s newsrooms still possess a serious lack of diversity. “Newsrooms are not that much more diverse now, especially when it comes to decision makers,” she said. Gilliam added, “As our country gets browner, the media gets whiter. …We’re actually losing diversity within media.”

Watch a C-SPAN clip of the event here. As seen on C-SPAN this morning, shown above is a screenshot of WaPo‘s 1963 coverage of the march. Robert Kaiser, then an intern at WaPo, recently recalled the day in grand detail and the fact that his newspaper wasn’t interested in King’s speech. He called it “journalism malpractice.” Definitely worth a look.