By Kafayat Layeni
Texas Southern University students, faculty, and friends of the School of Communication flocked to the MLK Auditorium for the third day of Communication Week to exchange views on the state of newsroom diversity in 2015.
The first panel, The D’Artagnan Bebel Powerbrokers Session: Why Diversity Matters in 2015 and Beyond, featured six executives and general managers in local public affairs, print, and broadcast journalism businesses, with each stating his or her perspective and answering the audience’s questions on why they believe diversity is essential to a well functioning news operation.
“It’s not enough diversity in our newsroom and I have been in the business for 30 years and we’ve been talking about this for 30 years,” said Maria Carrillo, the senior editor for the Houston Chronicle.
James Campbell, who was a Houston journalist for more than 20 years and now works as the director of public affairs at Memorial Hermann hospital, said there have been too many missed opportunities by the decision makers in the news business.
“That’s not to say the industry hasn’t been trying they haven’t tried hard enough,” said Campbell.
Although diversity continues to be a problem in the newsroom, D’Artagnan Bebel, the general manager for Fox 26 Houston, views the subject of diversity in a different light.
Bebel, who is Houston’s first and only black general manager of a TV station, said diversity is a term the industry came up with in the 60s to soften its ineffectiveness of newsroom parity.
“I have a responsibility to return a profit to my company, that’s why we’re in business; we’re not in business to be diverse,” said Bebel.
Bebel and Campbell also stressed that you do not get a pass in the industry because of your ethnicity; you must work hard and be superior to move your way up in the business.
“The industry has changed; its evolved you don’t get just because you’re a minority, because minority can mean anything, minority can mean gay, disabled, Korean, Japanese, Hispanic so you are competing in a global world with people of all ethnicities,” said Campbell.
“If there is one word you take away from this panel, it’s excellence, you must be excellent,” said Bebel.
General Manager for ABC 13, Henry Florsheim added, “You work your way up you try to make your mistakes where they are a little less visible.”
Students listened as each member of the panel gave answers to why diversity is important and what they should or could do to make a difference.
With the many rapidly changing economy and technology in newsrooms and in the world they cover, the students learned that they are the future to newsrooms becoming a diverse workplace.
“If we’re going to make a difference down the road, you need to first be excellent; then be blessed that someone will gave you the opportunity to show your excellence and then when you get a position of ….management [you] potentially [can] help other people of color who are excellence,” said Bebel.
“We need diversity, I will empower you by saying that you are the future, you really can be the future and any organization that is ignorant to that is not going to make it plain and simple,” said Jerry Martin, the general manager for KPRC 2.
The panelists left the students with a piece of advice on being persistent, being able to adapt and making things happen by themselves.
“Build your skill set; then market yourself; you have to market yourself,” said Campbell.
“Forge your own destiny don’t wait for somebody,” said Bebel
TSU’s Communication Week is an annual one week series of panels and media productions hosted by the departments of the School of Communication.