Sunday, 7 September 2008

Let us be diverse and without prejudice

There has been a bit of commentary about the Diversity Forum held by MSD last week. I've obviously heard a fair amount about it as one of the NewsWire babies who listened to Arlene Morgan speak about diversity in the newsroom, and I have to admit to being somewhat pleased by Deb Coddington's column in the HoS today. Her back-handed contrition, however (some objectors are better than others), continues to play into the same old divisive stereotypes that compel the need for forums like the diversity one and for offices like the Race Relations Conciliator.

Karl du Fresne admirably defends his distaste for meddling in the affairs of "free speech" - yet the crux of his argument is market driven and summed up nicely with:

The main thing about the controversy over the Clydesdale paper, however, was
that it demonstrated that a free and open society, if left to function properly,
tends to be self-correcting.
Self-correcting implies that every citizen, nay, every reader, is equal in intelligence and experience and able to disseminate a piece of information with the same veracity as the next one. That's the kind of idealistic twaddle you'd expect from a socialist like meself, not a curmudgeon like Mr du Fresne.

Which leads me on to prejudice (I know - this is a long one). The inimitable Jim Tucker plugged our push for diversity here, here, and here, but it was his latest post on his reading prejudices that ties in nicely with my fear for the fragmentation of voices in the media. One of the winners of the Excellence in Reporting Diversity Awards was Justin Latif, a chap who doesn't think his stories are diverse - they just are. This is all well and good, but as Jim points out:

We all, I suspect, choose our information sources according to deep-seated
biases created over lifetimes.
Which leads me to believe that as our media sources converge under the umbrellas of the major players, minority voices will be ignored in favour of the mainstream market (a continuation of a current theme), and our minorities will create their own media (much like we're already seeing in our local Asian communities).

While this isn't new, the growth of Asian media is a worrying trend - if we (read white, middle-class males) can't reach out and gather news like Justin, we're going to be holding the shortest straw when the interweb finally destroys flagship news outlets and the fragmentation of news sources is so diverse as to make it impossible to have any kind of "authoritative news".

This might not necessarily be a bad thing, but it does play to Jim's prejudices - we'll only read news and commentary that re-affirms our own experiences and ideologies. I don't see me being the token whitey in a newsroom as a bad thing, but I do see the creation of niche media that doesn't challenge its own assertions as one step closer to endgame. Here's hoping someone can allay my fears - as yet, no-one's managed the task.

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