How A Mostly White Press Corp Influences Camapign Coverage

By AARON MORRISON, Staff Writer (IBTimes)

Published: October 22, 2015

As an African-American female journalist shadowing Republican presidential candidates during the 2012 election cycle, Juana Summers was, at times, the only person of color in the room. But nothing crystallized her minority status more than when one of her white male press corps colleagues asked for an interview, assuming the 27-year-old Missouri native was simply a black voter captivated by a candidate’s stump speech.

“That’s what I get for not always wearing my press credentials,” she said of her time out on the campaign trail as a full-time embedded reporter for Politico. “It’s funny, but also a little sad, too.”

Summers is an example of strides that some U.S. newsoutlets have taken to elevate reporters of color and women to the highly coveted politics beat, which has for decades been predominantly white and male. But even with significantly more female journalists on the 2016 campaign trail, true racial diversity among journalists covering federal, state and local politics has not been achieved, advocates said. Some have said this is explained by the reality that not enough rookie reporters of color are being groomed to take on national political beats.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable, in 2015 or 2016, for news organizations to say that we can’t find people of color to fill these jobs,” said Summers, who recently became the politics editor for Mashable in Washington, D.C. “It’s your fault, in my opinion.”

For more than a decade, the racial makeup of traditional media organizations has been stagnant, despite fast-growing Hispanic and Asian populations and the federal government’s projection that the U.S.willbecome a majority-minority nation within 30 years. Newer digital publications also have struggled with and been criticized for the lack of diversity in their ranks.

Advocates have said media diversity matters most when candidates make statements about mass incarceration, immigration reform, the Black Lives Matter social justice movement and other topics in which race, economics and politics intersect. A more diverse group of journalists can ensure stories have needed context and that minority communities are more fairly represented, especially as voters weighissues that can decide who wins the White House, advocates said.

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