Richard Prince posted in his Journal-isms column a piece written by conservative columnist Rod Dreher about the issue of diversity. It seems that Dreher took umbrage to the National Association of Black Journalists taking National Public Radio to task for their lack of diversity in upper management.
I read the column you wrote on Belief.net, and had to fire off this response:
“I read the column you wrote on BeliefNet.com and all it does it express your utter ignorance of diversity this business.
“You wrote that you don’t care about ethnic diversity and that it really doesn’t matter. Well, it does matter. I can recall the atrocious column you wrote in a New York paper when Aaliyah died. Your characterization of this young woman as essentially being a nobody because you never heard of her spoke volumes. Yet when there was an outpouring of affection for this talented young lady from her fans, it clearly showed that there are people of color who are beloved in their community, even when whites like yourself are clueless. I was one of the folks who took to the airwaves on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and ripped you for the callous nature of what you wrote. Eight years later, you clearly recognized the utter ignorance when you wrote: “My 2001 Aaliyah column was mean, and I regret it.”
“I’m sure you had the same reaction when Selena died. We all saw white editors nationwide dismiss the importance of her death. I remember white editors at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram blowing off her death, saying it wasn’t worth sending reporters to the scene. It was only after we saw the amazing response did they discover something was larger. Oh, we sent a team of reporters. Why? Because I pushed them to ask our Hispanic staffers about Selena and her importance. I had never heard of her, but had the common sense to ask someone else. But had Garth Brooks or Brooks & Dunn been killed by the head of their fan club, that would have been called a no-brainer.
“For the record, NABJ doesn’t need you or Vivian Schiller telling us about recruitment. We do this EVERY DAY. We have always been on the front lines recruiting, training, re-training and advocating for our members. And in the 20 years I’ve been a member of NABJ (a student board member from 1989-1991 and currently secretary), I’ve personally witnessed ignorant media executives repeat the classic and ridiculous comment you made: they are just so hard to find.
“Then you have the audacity to tell a story of a poor colleague who searched near and far to find a Hispanic candidate, only to realize the oh-so-talented super Hispanic journalist was in such great demand? Give me a damn break! We hear that crap every day from people like you.
“Rod, since you are deaf, dumb and blind to diversity in our industry, why don’t you walk down the hall and go talk to some of your bosses at the Dallas Morning News, long a leader in diversity in the industry. Why don’t you have the courage to ask Bob Mong how he managed to hire talented journalists of color over the years. Maybe it’s because he didn’t sit in an office and diminish the number of talented minority journalists all around the country. Maybe he didn’t spend his time writing mindless columns without any real thought on how diversity is meaningless. Do you know what he did? He showed up at the conventions of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA, and NAJA. He and others understood that their cities were changing, and they needed people who could report in a diverse Dallas and D/FW Metroplex. They didn’t whine about how hard it was. Only weak people looking for an excuse do that.
“Rod, if you have an ax to grind about diversity of thought on NPR, fine. Keep complaining so they can hire a conservative voice like yours. But if you’re going to choose to write about ethnic diversity and dismiss it as not important, learn to do what real reporters do, and that is gain the facts, and write from a position of knowledge and not ignorance.
NABJ will always be hire to fight for diversity. We’ve seen individuals like you write silly stuff before, and I’m sure there are other uninformed Rod Drehers waiting to write such nonsense again. But we will not lose the fire in our belly. We will not surrender. We will not abdicate the mission of our founders to demand a seat at the table and expand the management ranks with diverse talent, whether in the newsroom or in management
“I’ll simply leave you to ponder the remarks made by longtime CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, spoken at the NABJ national convention in 2007, when he accepted our lifetime achievement award: ‘Beyond this ballroom, tonight, white males – wake up. Globally, you are an island speck in an ocean of color. The reins of power will weaken and so will your grip – if you do not faithfully support our nation’s greatest strength, diversity.’”