The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Last semester, our newsroom published its first newsroomwide diversity audit to analyze demographics among our staffers.

The results, frankly, were embarrassing for our newsroom. The results — compiled from more than 200 staffers — proved that the vast majority of our staffers came from white, affluent backgrounds, and our newsroom severely lacked representation for marginalized groups. 

In repeating that audit this spring term, the results had a similar pattern. 

  • The percentage of our staff who are Black rose slightly from 6.47 percent to 8.33 percent, but the percentage of staffers who are Asian decreased from around 18 percent to 16 percent. 
  • Those identifying as “other” rose from 3.48 percent to just over 5 percent. 
  • Around 10 percent of our staff identifies as Latinx, Hispanic or of Spanish origin, totaling 23 staffers. 
  • Sixty-eight percent of our staff is female, which has decreased by just over seven percentage points since last semester. Men make up 28.5 percent of our staff, and the number of nonbinary staffers rose by almost two percentage points.
  • In terms of sexual orientation, results have virtually remained the same. Around 68 percent of staffers identify as heterosexual, 6.5 percent identify as gay or lesbian, 17 percent identify as bisexual and 1.5 percent identify as pansexual or queer. 
  • Socioeconomic status is another category that remains unchanged from last semester, with around a third of the staff having a family income of more than $150,000, and 25.7 percent having a family income between $100,000 and $149,999. 

Although the lack of changes from last semester to this semester is disheartening, it does show that we need to do much better in recruiting a diverse staff for the 2021-22 academic year. 

For next year’s recruitment cycle, we have begun reaching out to several campus organizations to encourage those from marginalized communities to join our staff. We also plan to do this throughout the upcoming school year. We hope that as the vaccine continues to be distributed and we can hold more in-person events, we will find more opportunities to conduct outreach to help with this initiative.

When we began this journey last fall, we recognized that nothing any of us did in this one year would fix the relationships this paper has with marginalized communities or our lack of diversity in the newsroom in one year. The past academic year has not been without its struggles, but we hope to have laid a foundation for future diversity, equity and inclusion officers of the DTH to build upon going forward. 

Over the past year, we have worked internally to provide regular equity and sensitivity training to our staffers. We also held our first workshop surrounding institutional memory of our past earlier this semester and plan to continue these initiatives in order to avoid repeating mistakes in the future. 

We have worked with staffers and editors to ensure our stories include a broad range in perspectives and that we are telling stories important to everyone in our community. We have reached out to organizations and leaders on campus to listen to the advice and criticisms others have towards our coverage. 

Part of ensuring that our newsroom coverage is included is also being transparent with our readers. Our newsroom will implement transparency boxes underneath stories on our website and select print content that will explain how staffers reported on a particular piece, and we hope to use our digital and print products to further elaborate on our newsroom workflow. 

The Sharif Durhams Leadership Program, a talent and leadership development course for underrepresented students at the DTH, provides professional development with the intent to help these students move into positions of leadership in our newsroom. Several of them will have leadership positions next year.

Through this program, we’ve been able to publish our bimonthly section, Elevate, to highlight stories from marginalized groups. In the fall, we will hire our first Elevate editor. 

Although our DEI officer position has been occupied by two individuals this year, we will cut this to a single officer that will be supported by a diversity committee beginning in the 2021-2022 school year. The committee will include representatives from each desk. 

As former co-DEI officer Ramishah Maruf said in her farewell column, the DTH has to do better; however, it is not up to one person. 

The changes we made over the past year will mean nothing if future editors and staffers and the Board of Directors do not commit to making diversity, equity and inclusion an institutional initiative.

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