Tuesday, May 29, 2007Golden Gate [X]press the editorial staff conducted an audit of the diversity of the main subjects in published photographs. With the results of the audit, the editorial staff ran an editorialized analysis and the incoming editor-in-chief ran an analysis of his own. His ideas have caused a bit a concern inside and outside of the newsroom community at the [X]press. Just below is the incoming editor's entire article as it ran in issue 16 of the [X]press.
Please read it and let Ten95 know if you agree or disagree with Maher's take on diversity.
Note: The following article was run in the [X]press without the consent of Ian Thomas, the out-going editor-in-chief. Thomas has openly expressed his own outrage to the article's content and to the fact that he was left out of the loop.
Discussions of diversity always make me squeamish, chiefly because the discussion is usually based on presumptions that fundamentally reinforce the bigotry such conversations are meant to combat. The [X]press staff addressed in this issue a proportional discord between the recorded ethnic makeup of the campus population and the perceived ethnicity of individuals in published [X]press photography. The article begins by stating our paper’s goal to represent the multi-cultural population that makes our school “what it is,” and goes on without transition to explain how we’ve tested that representation by auditing our photography. The auditing process seems to be no more sophisticated than looking at people in the photos and concluding, "That's a black guy; that's a Chinese girl," and so on. I appreciate this is not an exact science. Diversity of coverage is a tricky thing to quantify, largely because there is so much disagreement on its definition. And our auditors must tread cautiously, carefully navigating the incredibly provocative waters diversity issues often churn. My heart goes out to them for the enormity complexity of their task, and I admire their devotion to the idea that diversity is so important. But setting aside even the absurd conclusion that skin color and bone structure are the defining elements of one's cultural identity (remember, at the moment we were targeting the importance of representing cultures, not races), I'm astonished we're accepting this particular definition of diversity with so little scrutiny. After all, I've always struggled to maintain belief in the idea that what defines us as people are our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. What makes a community meaningfully diverse is a wealth of individual beliefs, perspectives and behavior, not a bunch of different-looking faces. When we define diversity primarily in terms of what people look like, we give credence to the idea that a person is defined by those appearances. We accept and assume that societal forces are beyond each individual's control to absorb and react to in his or her own fashion, and in so doing we demean and discourage individuality and help create the stereotypes we intend to dispel. Skin color and gender are often important in determining the experiences that shape our believes and the way we behave around others, yes, and this does often result in groups of people with comparable ideology and behavior who look similar to each other. To that extent, I agree that our paper this semester has left room for improvement in portraying the true diversity of our community, and I pledge to work towards correcting that in the coming months. At the same time, I must make clear that my first priority will always be to promote a diversity defined by ideas and perspectives, above and beyond the aesthetic differences that have for so long afflicted our efforts to join together. Like everybody else, I’m only one person, and have only the benefit of one personal perspective. Our team next semester will work diligently and passionately towards providing as inclusive and accurate a portrayal of our community as possible, but we will need help. I strongly encourage our readers to speak up, and less us know when we are missing out on important perspectives and angles. The true power of the press lies in its close communication with the people. With an engaged and scrutinous audience, I am confident we can build a newspaper of true diversity and integrity.continue...
For further analysis of this article:
Double Consciousness (DC) co-founder and blogger Jack Stephens, who was a staff photographer for the Golden Gate [X]press this spring, breaks down the editorial written by Maher. Christine Joy Ferrer, a contributing blogger to DC and a reporter for the [X]press, also gives her own analysis of Maher's article.