Stater oversight is not an excuse

Seth Roy

It’s an issue many newspapers in America face: How to report on the minority population.

If you’ve been reading the Forum page this week, the Stater is no different from these other papers.

The question raised, by some students and members of the minority community, is why doesn’t the Stater represent the minority students?

The Stater ‘s mantra, if you will, is that it “covers KSU … and more.”

Kent State’s undergraduate student population in Fall 2006 was 18,136, according to the 2007 Fact Book. Of that number, 15,182 students, or 83.7 percent, were listed as white. Black students account for 8.2 percent, while Asian, Hispanic, American Indian and non-U.S. citizen students make up a combined 4.5 percent, and 3.5 percent of students didn’t report their race.

Obviously, not every story, design or photo will appeal to every student.

I think we do a fair job in representing the diverse university population.

Am I saying the Stater does it perfectly?

No. If so, we might not be having this discussion right now.

What we do well, however, is cover minority-related events. Or, at least, black events.

The first issue of the semester led with a package on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. February kept our reporters busy with almost daily programming that celebrated Black History Month.

I realize we don’t always dive deeper into issues, but we’re working on that.

As far as story and photo placement, editors meet every morning and afternoon to discuss story placement. We lead with what we think will interest students the most, or what should be important to students, such as tuition or big upcoming events.

Stories and photos are picked and placed based on what we think students want to read and on the quality of photo. The photos that tell the story the best get printed.

Where this paper has failed at getting the minority opinion is in stories that affect the entire university; or during large scale events that hundreds, or thousands, of students may be attending.

Justin Peeples, who wrote two guest columns that ran Monday and Tuesday, illustrated this point well. In Tuesday’s issue, he wrote that in 2005 the Stater ran a photo page that purported to show the faces of Kent State, from the president to the students and campus workers.

Each photo was of a white person.

I am confident this wasn’t on purpose. It was an oversight, which is not an excuse.

What the paper and its reporters and photographers need to do is concentrate on getting minority voices (and faces) in stories that don’t only affect black students.

The paper has several reporters devoted to covering minority affairs, but minority affairs extends beyond two or three beat reporters.

What reporters have to do, both here and at newspapers across America, is keep diversity in mind as they cover the issues.

That is what I have challenged my staff to do: Keep diversity in mind as we report, photograph and design the paper every night.

Another much more recent, and much more hurtful, incident happened earlier this week when “colored” ran in Peeples’ first column’s headline. It should not have appeared in print, and I am really sorry that it did.

Incidents such as that one, and any acts of vandalism will only make the problem worse. What we need, and are attempting to do, is create an open dialogue on this Forum page and in the office.

I can assure you that our editors and night supervisors are thinking diversity as the paper is being put together every night.

If you feel we are failing at this, that’s what this Forum page is for. Speak your mind. Send your letters or guest columns to [email protected]

Seth Roy is a senior newspaper journalism major and editor of the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected] or 330-672-0885.