Diversity in Canadian media should start on campuses

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Student newspapers are the training grounds for the next generation of journalists—and the starting points for much-needed newsroom diversification.
 
A Globe and Mail opinion from Amy O’Kruk, a former Western Gazette editor-in-chief, Western University’s student newspaper, articulated the important role of student newspapers in preparing a more diverse future for journalism.
 
University papers frequently struggle to walk the line between representing diverse campus topics and communities without appropriating the voices of the groups they report on. One solution is obvious: newsrooms representing diverse identities facilitate authentic and sensitive reporting. 
 
But achieving and maintaining staff diversity is something legacy and student publications alike continue to grapple to get right.
 
Like big outlets, campus publications are too often synonymous with majority white, male staff members. Even if this isn’t always the case, this is the image most often associated with student newspapers. This culture needs to change.
 
Ideally, this change should start within mastheads (published lists of newspapers’ staff). The image of the predominantly white, male newsroom can discourage potential applicants who don’t see themselves reflected in past or current teams. To attract a more diverse range of people, all campus communities need to be made to feel welcome. Whether it’s reaching out to student groups before the hiring period or publishing transparent diversity statistics, student newspapers need to show there’s a place for students who deviate from majority stereotypes.
 
Without supports and resources like bursaries or academic credits, student editors and writers often need to have the socioeconomic privilege necessary to devote most of their free time to writing and editing for little or no pay. 
 
Student editors may feel pressure to prioritize their work over their classes, or take an extra year in their undergraduate degrees to explore different roles at their newspapers—but for students without the means available to meet these taxing requirements, a demanding student journalism role might not be feasible. 
 
Financial assistance, whether in the form of salaries, honoraria, or scholarships, would go a long way in making more room for socioeconomic diversity in student journalism.
 
Roles in campus newspapers provide students with footing in their post-graduate job applications to bigger media outlets. If we want to see change in the diversity of those legacy newsrooms, we need to start by addressing the diversity in our own newsrooms first. 
 
Students from all backgrounds considering careers in journalism deserve equal opportunities to gain relevant, invaluable experience from working at their campus publications. 
 
Until student newspapers better address the barriers preventing some students from applying in the first place, we’ll continue to see these opportunities afforded only to applicants with the inherent privilege to hold staff writer and editor positions.
 
 

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