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ASPartOfMe
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23 Feb 2021, 10:50 am

True Newsroom Diversity Must Account for Disability Status, Too by Sara Luterman

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I am one of a handful of openly disabled journalists. I have had to actively find every other disabled journalist I know. Some of us are closeted.

It’s impossible to know, at least right now, exactly how many disabled journalists there even are in newsrooms. We’re not included in the glossy diversity reports some major outlets have put out in recent years.

On the most basic level, there is a problem with how most (non-disabled) people see disability. People who are well versed in equity and inclusion sometimes seem to forget disabled people exist, at least in the context of diversity.

Disability, in too many people’s minds, is something bad that happens to a person.

I am proud of who I am. I have experiences that are different from my non-disabled peers, and those experiences inform my work. And I am not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes.

It is hard to find role models in the industry. There are very few disabled journalists, especially in senior positions. The most famous disabled journalist is probably Serge F. Kovaleski, who President Trump famously mocked on the campaign trail. But when ordinary people invoke the “disabled reporter,” they often do not even know his name, let alone anything he’s written. Support from journalists who are parents or siblings of disabled people is invaluable and has helped many of us get our foot in the door. But it’s not the same as having other disabled journalists to look up to.

Then, there is the problem of infrastructure. There are no formal talent pipelines for disabled journalism students. There are no scholarships. There are no formal resources. We do not have an association, like the Asian American Journalists Association or the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

There is a National Center on Disability and Journalism, but its work is centered “providing support and guidance for journalists as they cover people with disabilities.” They have a disability style guide. It’s a good style guide that I frequently recommend.

There are bigger, more systemic barriers. Disabled people are more likely to experience poverty than the general population. We’re less likely to have attended elite institutions, or any university at all. We have a higher unemployment rate.

Few of the disabled journalists I know have staff positions. None of the disabled journalists I know make hiring decisions.

Wendy Lu, a disabled staff journalist at the Huffington Post, has written about the emotional storytelling that seems to dominate stories about disability, at least as it currently exists. “Of the eight news values (proximity, timeliness, prominence, magnitude, conflict, oddity, impact, and emotion), emotion too often rises to the top when telling stories about disability communities,” Lu notes. There are so many disability stories that aren’t being told, because they don’t tug on anyone’s heartstrings.

The absence of disabled journalists in newsrooms also means newsrooms miss big stories about disability.

There need to be more disabled journalists in newsrooms, telling complex, difficult stories about disability. Hire disabled journalists. Hire journalists who might not not have perfectly smooth resumes, but who have experienced the disability service system first-hand. Ask your disabled employees, if you have any, what they need to build their careers, and to build pathways and pipelines for younger disabled journalists. Diversity initiatives in newsrooms are vitally important, not only when considering race or gender, but also when considering disability status.


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IsabellaLinton
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23 Feb 2021, 10:59 am

My daughter is disabled and attended a renowned Journalism school with accommodations for her physical and spectrum needs.

She found it overwhelming and physically exhausting, having to carry heavy camera equipment, standing outdoors for hours interviewing people, and even commuting to and from events when she needed to report. The social-emotional stressors of being on camera, interacting with strangers, composing her emotions to stay neutral, and involving herself in dangerous situations (crime scenes) on-call 24/7 was very taxing. There was never any down-time.

The accommodations were poor, at best.

I don't think people realise the extent Journalism is exhausting physically, socially, and emotionally.



steve30
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28 Feb 2021, 6:55 am

There are some aspects of journalism that some aspies (and other disabled people) will either struggle with, or just not be able to do.

I don't work as a journalist, but have engaged in a bit of 'amateur video journalism' at some protests recently. As an aspie, I can safely say it is hard work trying to approach random members of the public, trying to think of questions to ask, listening to what they've got to say, and operating a video camera at the same time.

I could not do that as a paid job.



Grammar Geek
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28 Feb 2021, 8:45 am

I have a journalism degree. My autism makes me an outstanding copy editor, but because autism isn’t common in this field and the benefits of autism aren’t well known there, I am hesitant to disclose my autism on cover letters, even though the autism positively separates me from other applicants.



Edna3362
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01 Mar 2021, 5:47 pm

From where I came from?

It's considered dangerous. :twisted:
It mattered a little if it's an NT or an ND.

Just rile enough people and walk at the wrong side of the neighborhood...
One might as well be cancelled for life in a most literal way possible -- with a gun or a knife or maybe with something blunt.


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Mona Pereth
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01 Mar 2021, 11:35 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
True Newsroom Diversity Must Account for Disability Status, Too by Sara Luterman
Quote:
Then, there is the problem of infrastructure. There are no formal talent pipelines for disabled journalism students. There are no scholarships. There are no formal resources. We do not have an association, like the Asian American Journalists Association or the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

The National Federation of the Blind has a bunch of Divisions, Committees, and Groups, one of which is the "Blind Professional Journalists Group." I'm not sure whether other disability communities have similar groups.

In any case, it's clear to me that the autistic community needs groups for autistic people in who either work or want to work in various specific occupations. One of these could be a group of journalists, other nonfiction writers, and editors.

See my Autistic Workers Project page for a list of possible groups. (I should perhaps add "A group of journalists, other nonfiction writers, and editors" and "A group of fiction writers and editors.")


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