by Gabriel Arana
The American Prospect
On the staff of The American Prospect, I’m the only member of an ethnic minority. That’s not because I bring all the variety the magazine needs, or because the editors don’t think diversity is valuable. Everyone on the masthead of this liberal publication is committed to being inclusive—not just of racial and ethnic minorities but of women; gays, lesbians, and transgender people; and the poor.
It’s not just the Prospect. Journalism upstarts like Vox Media and FiveThirtyEighthave come under fire recently for lack of diversity in their hires, but that’s largely because they are drawing from the milky-white pool of “existing talent.” In the corner of the publishing industry that caters to college-educated wonks—a slightly fuzzy designation, but I’ve included most of the publications my colleagues and I read on a daily basis—racial and ethnic diversity is abysmal.
Nearly 40 percent of the country is non-white and/or Hispanic, but the number of minorities at the outlets included in this article’s tally—most of them self-identified as liberal or progressive—hovers around 10 percent. The Washington Monthly can boast 20 percent, but that’s because it only has nine staffers in total, two of whom belong to minority groups). Dissent has none. Given the broad commitment to diversity in our corner of the publishing world, why is the track record so poor?
Corporate America long ago signed on to the idea that diversity—besides being a noble goal in itself—is good for business. Companies with diverse workforces consistently outperform their competitors; diversity drives innovation, and workers tend to be happier at companies that value inclusiveness. But it’s even more important in journalism than, say, at an accounting firm. When you’re in the business of telling stories, lacking diversity means you’re limited in the sorts of stories you can tell—or even think of telling. A newsroom filled with white guys simply lacks the same imagination as one with people from an array of backgrounds. One editor I spoke with stressed that they “choose staff for what they can bring to the magazine, first and foremost,” but lacking diversity is actually a prime indicator that you’re failing to attract the top talent.
To read Gabriel Arana’s commentary in its entirety visit The American Prospect.