I am writing this letter to ask that both readers, listeners (radio), watchers (TV), editors and owners of various area mass media look at their staffs and their coverage for bias in hiring and coverage based on a failure to diversify their hiring and coverage.
I have observed that if you take a look at all media in Asheville, especially the Asheville Citizen-Times and WLOS, you will find that all of the local media, for whatever reason, institutional racism perhaps, have failed to diversify their employee base and are very white-dominated, and that sends a message to children and area subscribers and residents that for the most part, these important community info givers only hire whites and provide a Caucasian perspective in their daily reporting.
I would compare this to the news coverage in South Africa under apartheid and add that this is something that has been common practice here since the beginning of any of these local media entities. This has to change sometime, and I am writing this letter in the hope that those who are in control of local media see it, think about it, realize that my point here is valid and make changes in the future.
I have to believe that our children must not continue to grow up seeing very little diversity in local media and instead see that everyone here has a possible future reporting the news in Asheville and Western North Carolina.
— John Penley
Editor’s note: When contacted, the Citizen-Times and WLOS declined to offer a response. As a small, alternative outlet, our goal at Xpress is to hire qualified people with a passion for community journalism. We actively seek to avoid discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation in our hiring, promotion and compensation practices.
Concerning Xpress’ coverage, we have frequent newsroom discussions to watch for and compensate for biases and blind spots.
The reasons for the U.S. media’s failure to diversify are many and complex, and can ultimately be traced to society as a whole. Yet different media operations have different dynamics: Contrast large with small ones; compare national with local, niche with mainstream.
Agreed, the distortions of the media tend to perpetuate systemic problems in society. They send bad messages to our children (and the rest of us).
While there is value in comparing the U.S. to South African apartheid in regard to white ownership of the media, some key parallels fail — one of them being our Constitution’s First Amendment and related laws that permit any individual or group to establish and operate a media operation.
We hear Mr. Penley’s concern, however, and take it to heart. Racial diversity should extend to media operations and its voices. We can’t make that a reality alone, but we want to do our part. We welcome contributors and applicants from diverse backgrounds as well as suggestions on how we might better reflect the many perspectives in our community.