Friday’s “Sourcing people of color: Going beyond the community leader” panel, moderated by Manny Garcia of the USA TODAY Network, Diego Santiago of Telemundo, Maria Polletta of The Arizona Republic, and Warren Trent of KTVK/KPHO-TV offered a variety of helpful tips for journalists wanting to improve how they cover historically marginalized communities.
Below are some of their suggestions:
Work to build trust.
- Step out of your “investigative box” and do community stories to build relationships. – Trent
- Try to gain not only the trust of the accuser but also of the accused, as they may not have had their point of view represented fairly in past. – Santiago
- Put yourself in places where you may not get a story immediately, but your presence shows you care about the greater story of that community. – Polletta
- If you turn down a story from a member of the community, tell them why you’re passing and offer tips for pitching story ideas in the future – especially in communities that don’t trust the media. – Polletta
- “Solutions journalism” can help build trust with the community because you take a social problem and compare that trend or data with a place that seems to be bucking it to see how best practices could be gleaned and possibly replicated. – Polletta
- Be yourself and don’t try to pose as something you’re not to curry favor in a community you’re covering. Rather, do your homework when covering a community you don’t know well or aren’t part so that you actually understand them better. – Polletta
- Don’t be afraid to speak up in your newsroom when you think a community is being maligned in coverage. You don’t have to always be the voice of the community you identify with, but you should use that sensibility to urge your colleagues to more adequately and accurately cover that group. – Trent
- Remind your editors and colleagues that sometimes you have to do the stories that won’t generate clicks in order to build a case for a better story down the line. These stories help to foster trust and lead to better access, especially when other reporters may only show up to cherry-pick a story and leave. – Polletta
- Show up to events and just listen. – Polletta
- Don’t wait for there to be a disaster or tragedy to start figuring out how to cover a community. – Trent
- Be careful not to only tell stories that celebrate people of color doing ordinary things that wouldn’t otherwise be newsworthy. – Garcia
Get comfortable with criticism.
- Acknowledge mistakes, apologize, and learn from them when you use an incorrect word or run a piece that is later found to be offensive. – Santiago
- Be proactive about soliciting feedback from communities of color. Don’t wait for the praise or criticism to come your way. – Polletta
- When you get attacked, refer to some successful coverage that you have done.
- From a news manager’s perspective: Learn how your newsroom has previously covered a group of marginalized or maligned people. Read and watch past coverage with an eye for tone and stereotypes in coverage. – Garcia
- While you can’t ignore activists, always do your research with criminal background checks. Find out who may be funding them and look at what their social media profiles say. – Trent
- Don’t assume what people of color may think about an issue or that they will not want to discuss something traumatic for their community. – Polletta
- Ask people in the community: Who does and does not represent you? – Polletta
- Remember that people of color do all kinds of work as professionals and could be sources. Be proactive in seeking them out. – Trent
Francisco Vara-Orta is a data specialist/staff writer at Education Week.