Recommendations for moving toward an antiracist journalism education

Around the U.S., news organizations have been reckoning with the structural, systemic racism that undergirds their newsrooms and the larger industry. At the same time, a number of scholars have been researching how racism and whiteness influence the field’s norms and practices. In the virtual Engaged Journalism Exchange AEJMC pre-conference, we explored where efforts seeking to push toward antiracist journalism have the potential to collide — in journalism education classrooms and beyond.

Check out the Lightning Chat on Toward an Antiracist Journalism Education.

In a series of lightning presentations, we discussed how journalism educators have been bringing best practices for inclusive and antiracist journalism into the classroom, as well as how curricula may be adapted to question harmful norms and practices, and to build competencies needed for more inclusive journalism. Panelists (listed below) shared examples of strategies and projects they undertook with students to create environments conducive to difficult conversations, as well as resources for educators seeking to strengthen their curricula.

Panelists
Celeste Gonzáles de Bustamante, University of Arizona
Diamond Hardiman, Free Press News Voices/Media 2070
Alissa Richardson, University of Southern California
Sue Robinson, University of Wisconsin

We then had a series of small group breakout discussions to brainstorm recommendations to shift journalism education closer to antiracism. Below are the suggestions we collectively generated.

This list is by no means comprehensive. We hope instead that these ideas serve as a jumping off point for further discussions within journalism faculty meetings, classrooms, newsrooms, as well as among funders of journalism.

Recommendations for educators

For the syllabus:

  • Add diversity and inclusion to the learning objectives of every journalism course.
  • Encourage faculty to use readings from diverse authors and bring in guest speakers who identify as BIPOC, female, and nonbinary.
  • Provide resources for teaching journalism and inclusion, such as suggested readings, discussion guides, and guests.

For classroom conversation:

  • Host regular listening sessions with students to talk about issues that arise in the classroom.
  • Provide an anonymous reporting mechanism for faculty, staff and students for abuses and harassment that take place online or in physical spaces.
  • Acknowledge your (the educator’s) own privilege transparently at the start of the semester. That privilege could be based on things like gender, race, socio-economic status, immigration status, and able-bodied privilege.
  • Acknowledge past harm you may have knowingly/unknowingly caused.
  • Be vulnerable and ask students to hold you accountable in the moment should you say/do/present something problematic.
  • Create a safe space for in-class conversations that go beyond framing conversations between just two groups, for example white vs Black/Indigenous.
  • Account for in-between marginalized communities (for example Asians, white women) and the role they play in upholding colonial systems and structures.
  • Explore the concept of how the oppressed can become the oppressors and how various marginalized communities were historically pitted against each other.
  • Discuss the history and original intention of objectivity. Consider questions such as, “Who can or cannot report?” and “What has objectivity meant over time?”
  • Pursue cross-cultural work within the classroom, such as requiring people to speak to people who do not speak English, or creating service-learning approaches.
  • Discuss the language we use in journalism classes with our staff in contrast to what might be institutionally approved language. Reflect on changing language as stylebooks evolve.

Administration and collaborative curriculum change processes:

  • Distribute responsibility for change in individual classrooms and across the curriculum, as well as across the faculty.
  • Administrators must work toward creating a culture of belonging for faculty of color & other minoritized scholars (consider how supportive an environment we are creating for our colleagues), which include the interrogation of harmful practices, such as student evaluations.
  • Listen to and implement the ideas of your students, or ideas from your community of impacted people — and prominently credit them.
  • Compensate those people for their input and work making recommendations for change.
  • Create and fund collaborative processes for curriculum change that are led or strongly informed by impacted community members.
  • Pursue collaborations between scholars, instructors, working journalists, and students to create tools and frameworks that make it easier for people to adopt and change.
  • Create an open source for anti-racist curriculum and repository for academics and newsrooms.
  • Direct more money at curriculum change, such as incentives for professors and PAs to help redevelop assignments, and readings.
  • Include, constantly reevaluate, and measure goals for antiracism/DEI throughout curriculum and course.
  • Remember that this work will never be “finished.”
  • Look for opportunities to connect with people outside j-schools to do journalism education that has value for communities.
  • Host listening sessions between faculty, students, journalists, and community members.
  • If junior faculty of color are asked to develop DEI plans, provide them with either course releases or other compensation for their efforts.

DEI training and coursework:

  • Require all students to take a journalism diversity course, and always offer a few options.
  • Embed lessons related to DEI within all core required courses, when applicable.
  • Require faculty to take a diversity training course and describe how they are using it in their curriculum/service.
  • Require training and make DEI/belonging work part of how faculty are evaluated.
  • Teach and train all students to challenge and change the systems they’ll be part of, such as a 101 class on professional norms and how professional norms often reinscribe whiteness.
  • Universities should offer a foundational course on cross-cultural communication, and should ensure that belonging is emphasized throughout their curriculum.
  • When it comes to DEI efforts across universities, learning outcomes need to reflect an anti-racist, reparative approach to journalism.

Crosscutting recommendations:

  • Formally recognize the history of harm and structural racism as a starting point. Then tease that out in teaching and curriculum.
  • Emphasize BIPOC leadership’s impact on the academy and in newsrooms.
  • Build pipelines for BIPOC in newsrooms and the academy, and work across hierarchies in higher ed to bridge from community college to 4-year.
  • Make sure BIPOC/women are not being brought in only to talk about “diversity” issues.
  • Actively seek diversity (hiring and student recruiting) and address head on the question, “Why aren’t these spaces diverse in the first place?”
  • Avoid parachute journalism and journalism education: make connections, not power plays.
  • For faculty under collective bargaining agreements, work with union representation during bargaining preparations to include formal language in tenure track and non-tenure track CBAs to set benchmarks for hiring, not merely considering, BIPOC faculty.

We’d like to thank the participants who contributed to this discussion (some 50+ scholars, journalists, and other stakeholders). These include, among others:

Karin Assmann, College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Sarah Bennett, Santa Ana College

Carrie Brown, Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY

Danielle K Brown, University of Minnesota -Twin Cities

Laura Castañeda, University of Southern California

Letrell Deshan Crittenden, Thomas Jefferson University

Andrew DeVigal, University of Oregon

John Doyle, Cabrini University

Miya Williams Fayne, California State University, Fullerton

Michelle Ferrier, Media Innovation Collaboratory/TrollBusters

Terrence Fraser, Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY

Daniela Gerson, California State University, Northridge

Cole Goins, Journalism + Design

Celeste González de Bustamante, University of Arizona

Meg Heckman, Northeastern University and 2021–2022 head of AEJMC’s Commission on the Status of Women

Azeta Hatef, Emerson College

Ashley Kang, Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Director of the South Side Community Newspaper Project

Allie Kosterich, Fordham University

Tahiat Mahboob, Independent Journalist

Donica Mensing, University of Nevada, Reno

Seong Jae Min, Pace University

Jacob Nelson, Arizona State University

Winnie O’Kelley, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

Paromita Pain, University of Nevada, Reno

Mark Poepsel, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

Allissa V. Richardson, University of Southern California

Kristy Roschke, Arizona State University

Soomin Seo, Temple University

Cheryl Thompson-Morton, Center for Community Media, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

Melissa Tully, University of Iowa

Jen Vernon, Sierra College

Paul Voakes, University of Colorado Boulder

Qun Wang, Fordham University

Andrea Wenzel, Temple University

Rachel Young, University of Iowa

This pre-conference was organized and moderated by Andrew DeVigal (University of Oregon), Daniela Gerson (California State University-Northridge), Jacob Nelson (Arizona State University), and Andrea Wenzel (Temple University). It was supported by the Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon, Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and AEJMC’s Participatory Journalism Interest Group.