Wanda Lloyd, executive director of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute, described what it was like to emerge from the segregated South to become one of the nation’s most successful African-American newspaper journalists in an appearance Wednesday at Belmont University.
Speaking before an audience at the Beaman Student Life Center as the first speaker in the university’s New Century Journalism Speaker’s Series, Lloyd said the race riots of the 1960s were the starting point for many of today’s African-American journalists, as formerly all-white newsrooms sought out minorities to better cover minority communities.
She also discussed the impact on newsroom racial diversity of the Kerner Report, the 1968 report of a federal government commission that investigated urban riots in the United States in the summers of 1965-67 in order to analyze the specific triggers for the riots, the deeper causes of the worsening racial climate of the time, and potential solutions.
The commission found that urban violence reflected profound frustration of inner-city African Americans and indicated racism was deeply embedded in American society, and warned, famously, that the United States was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal,” as evidenced by overt discrimination but also chronic poverty, high unemployment, poor schools, inadequate housing, lack of access to health care, and systematic police bias and brutality, which fell most heavily on the African American community.
The Kerner report also was critical of the news media, for its failure to analyze and report adequately on race problems and for writing and reporting “from the standpoint of a white man’s world,” an approach the commission said was “not excusable in an institution that has the mission to inform and educate the whole of society.”
Lloyd said the American Society of Newspaper Editors, concerned with the low number of non-white journalists in newspaper newsrooms, set about in 1978 toward a goal of having newsrooms reflect America’s racial and ethnic diversity by the year 2000. In 1978, said Lloyd, African Americans were about 12 percent of the nation’s population but were only about 4 percent of newsroom staffs. By 1998, the percentage had risen to 10 percent in the newsroom, but because of the rapid growth of various non-white population groups in the United States, including Hispanics, the nation’s population is now about 31 percent non-white. The ASNE now is focused on achieving population-newsroom racial parity by 2025, and has put in place several programs to reach that goal.
One big obstacle, Lloyd said, is the low number of minority college students who are interested in pursuing careers in the newspaper business. “Not enough young people of color in high school are interested in becoming reporters and editors,” said Lloyd.
The Freedom Forum Diversity Institute in Nashville is a program to develop a new pool of journalists of color, and trains non-traditional students to work at their local daily newspaper in the United States. Most students are making a career transition into journalism. The Diversity Institute faculty includes career professional journalists and guest trainers and speakers. The program has 35 graduates in its first two years.
Lloyd was formerly managing editor at The Greenville (S.C.) News. Before that, she was senior editor/days & administration at USA TODAY, where she served earlier as deputy managing editor/cover stories and managing editor/administration. She also worked at the Providence Evening Bulletin, Miami Herald, Atlanta Journal and The Washington Post. She served for two years as a Pulitzer Prize juror, and is a member of the American Press Institute’s News Advisory Board, the board of directors of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the advisory board of the International Women’s Media Foundation, the board of trustees of Spelman College, and the Accrediting Committee of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
Belmont University’s New Century Journalism program is designed to prepare students to work in newsrooms across broadcast, print and online media platforms.
Future speakers scheduled as part of the New Century Journalism Speakers Series include syndicated columnist and television commentator Julianne Malveaux; multimedia journalist Jeff Houck of The Tampa News Center; Sybril Bennett, Ph.D., executive director of Belmont University