By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group
A panel of digital journalists, led by NABJ member Retha Hill confronted questions of diversity often lost in the new media technology and economy discussion: Who is online? Who is innovating? What”s the environment for entrepreneurs? What”s the history of women and people of color in digital journalism?
Moderator Retha Hill started off with a quiz on the history of diversity in media. Attendees barely passed. “I guess these are coming back home with me,” Hill said of some of the prizes she brought for correct answers.
@ONA11 #diversitykey panel: @bkoon, @sammyd, Joel Dreyfus of @TheRoot247 & @LatoyaPeterson, moderated by @RethaHill. Amazing group!
Above: Joel Dreyfuss, TheRoot.com and Bruce Koon, KQEDI, along with several other NABJ memebrs, were sitting in the front row of this Saturday morning keynote panel, whose members were Founder Joel Dreyfuss of TheRoot.com, LaToya Peterson of the Racialicious blog, along with Bruce Koon, news director at KQED and Sam Diaz, a Silicon Valley-based freelance writer, ghost writer and communications consultant.
Kweku Adoboli’s runaway losses leads to CEO Oswald Grübel’s departure. It wasn’t racial solidarity but racial vulnerability that made him so important to African Americans. The Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church says the case is in blatant contradiction to American ideals.
A certified media junkie, Latoya Peterson provides a hip-hop feminist and anti-racist view on pop culture with a special focus on video games, anime, American comics, manga, magazines, film, television, and music.
Sam has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, primarily in newspapers but more recently online. He has covered pretty much every facet of the tech industry over the past dozen years as a beat reporter/editor/blogger for the San Jose Mercury News, the Washington Post and ZDNet.
This has been going on, it seems, forever. But the latest round was spurred in December 2010 after News Foo was held at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Panel moderator Retha Hill, director of the new media innovation lab at ASU — who did
attend News Foo — offered more information. And Hill asked the bigger question — why are new media conferences lacking in minorities?
I tweet a lot from journalism events. I think I can say that few people tweet as much about journalism as I do. I didn’t tweet much from News Foo Camp last weekend. But other campers and I tweeted enough that our tweeps wanted more.
Peterson discussed the vision behind Racialicious and the challenges of maintaining and promoting it.
NABJDigital: Are you a Washingtonian or someone who relocated to this area and fell in love with it?
LaToya Peterson: I grew up here. My mom lived in Maryland and my Dad lived in D.C. So I’m a local. I don’t call myself a Washingtonian though – Washington is a different kind of place from D.C., and I learned that as I got older.
ND: What inspired the blog? How often is it updated and what are peak days/times when you and your colleague(s) encounter more traffic and news?
LP: Carmen Van Kerckhove (now Carmen Sognonvi) started this blog as Mixed Media Watch as a way to monitor representations of mixed race people and interracial couples in the media. Her then-partner, Jen Chau, wanted to be more involved with her mixed race advocacy organization Swirl. Carmen had also wanted to bridge the gulf between larger conversations on race and mixed race issues, so she rolled them all into Racialicious. I came on around the transition as a special correspondent and went from there.
I was attracted to the blog because it was a pan-racial take on events – it wasn’t just about black issues or Asian issues, but was welcoming to all. As we’ve grown, it’s been a struggle to keep up as well and to learn about all the different communities we serve. We’ve also been on a heavy learning curve since we have an international audience, and race issues change depending on how that society has constructed different groups.
We update daily, the goal is to do three posts a day, though that doesn’t always happen. Heavy traffic days are mid-week, lightest on the weekend. But our posts tend to have a long tail – so something we post Monday will still receive comments and debate on Friday.
ND: What sets Racialicious apart from other sites that addresses the complexities of all things racial (sexual/political and any other -ism warranting closer attention)?
LP: Three things – 1. We’re a multiracial space, which makes things infinitely more complicated. Traditionally, race work has been silo-ed with most folks sticking to their own background group, and occasionally reaching out to white audiences. Our goal is to get people talking to each other across racial, ethnic, and national boundaries.
2. We base everything in pop culture. Most people (and most of us on staff) didn’t have the ability or luxury to spend a lot of time with critical race or oppression studies in school. So pop culture becomes an easy way in to open up broader conversations. I’m currently working on a piece about two shows – Single Ladies and Love Bites – to talk about the differences between how the shows present interracial relationships. Love Bites, which is a show revolving around a handful of white characters, takes the colorblind approach, where race is never mentioned and is never an issue. Single Ladies, which revolves around two black women and one white one (who dates black men) bring up race, but not in the heavy-handed way it’s often dealt with on other shows. Pop culture helps people grasp onto these larger issues of theory in a way that makes sense to them.
3. We deal with structures. We’re interested in the root cause of a lot of these problems and we want to discuss that with a wider audience that normally doesn’t get that kind of analysis from mainstream media sources.
ND: W hat are some challenges you face in gathering information and maintaining the blog?
LP: Time is the largest one. Racialicious is a volunteer effort, so we are always out of time. Information and such flows through to us at this point, far more than we can handle. So our biggest challenges are increasing capacity and figuring out how some of us can transition into doing this full time.
ND: How does maintaining this effort differ from your other writing/journalism experience(s)?
LP: I started digitally, so to me digital writing is a lot more free than other types. I’m not worrying about word counts or page limits, I don’t have an editor, I don’t have to worry about timeliness or arguing why something is relevant – we write what we like and what interests us. I love the collective that we built – our commenter base is whip smart and informed and just as snarky as we are.
I like the people who helped make this happen – Carmen, Wendi, Arturo, Thea, Fatemeh, Nadra, Jessica and Andrea all came into this project knowing it was this weird kind of collaborative experiment, and yet stayed around anyway. That’s what I love it about it. Other writing is fun too. It just never feels like home the way Racialicious does.