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Tips for reporting on diverse communities that aren’t your own

By Amber Liu 

Trying to excel at covering diverse communities might include new techniques or resources, such as collaboratively developing a diverse source list and rethinking how to best use interpreters.

Sherry Yu of Temple University, Michael Matza of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Sabrina Vourvoulias of AL DÍA News suggested these techniques and more at an IRE session about reporting on diverse communities.

Yu explained the importance of cultural literacy and said language fluency affects how much reporters can cover other communities. She suggested journalists make use of professional networks across ethnic boundaries, such as Latino Print Network, New America Media and ASNE.

Yu also said journalism schools should play an important role in reporting on diverse communities by:

  • Developing an ethnic media database
  • Organizing ethnic-mainstream media roundtables and facilitating the sharing of intercultural editorial practices
  • Developing programs for mid-career editorial training on diversity
  • Conducting content analyses of news items and audience research

Matza said reporting could also benefit from language barriers. “Language barriers force me to ask simple, single-clause questions, and re-ask them even more simply,” he said.

He shared tips on the best ways to work with interpreters and better understand unfamiliar countries:

  • Have interpreters translate in the first person
  • Ask interpreters to speak every sentence that the subject speaks, in the subject’s voice
  • Use recognized sources, such as the CIA World Fact Book and BBC News country profiles

Vourvoulias suggested:  

  • Hiring bilingual reporters and reporters from communities that your media organization is covering.
  • Working collaboratively with other ethnic media organizations
  • Treating ethnic-media journalists as peers
  • Never using the terms “illegal immigrant” or “illegal aliens"

 

Ke (Amber) Liu is pursuing her master’s degree in Journalism and Public Affairs at American University with interests in both investigative and broadcast tracks. She also worked as a graduate researcher at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, a nonprofit newsroom at American University, and as an investigative intern at The Washington Post.

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