Twitter today attacked Vanity Fair for a rather un-diverse list of “media disrupters.” Featuring big names like Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times, Bill Simmons of ESPN and David Pogue of Yahoo Tech, the list is vastly white and vastly male, with only two women on board.
Journalism’s earnest watchdogs at Poynter.org sensed an opportunity: Why not suggest some people of color who deserve media-disrupter status in a prominent national glossy? Poynter’s Kristen Hare did exactly that, offering up Fusion’s Anna Holmes, BuzzFeed’s Shani Hilton and Twitter’s Mark Luckie, among others.
Meanwhile, at the “about us” page on Poynter.org, this picture obtains:
This is the bummer about hammering others for diversity: Very few media organizations can do it without having to run a hypocrisy disclosure.
The Erik Wemple Blog asked Poynter Institute President Tim Franklin, one of the many white faces above, whether his folks needed to caveat the attack on Vanity Fair. No, he responded, in effect. “I’m not sure your analogy works here. Our story is commenting on a list of media disrupters that a news organization produced. Our story was NOT about Vanity Fair’s own diversity as an organization. If the story had been about VF’s staff diversity, then I think Poynter’s own diversity could become an element of that story,” writes Franklin via e-mail.
Via long e-mail, that is:
But in this case, I think the more apt comparison would be to look at the diversity of Poynter’s public programs, and who we’ve identified as leaders and experts to speak on various journalistic topics. (After all, the VF piece also was about who it has identified as leaders). On that front, while we could always do better, I’m proud of our strong record on diversity.
Diversity is at the core of many of our public programs. For example, Poynter is going into its fourth year of organizing an innovative program, called the Write Field, in which we work with minority middle school boys in the Tampa Bay region throughout the academic year to help them improve academically and personally. The program has helped dozens of minority boys over the past three years, and its received national acclaim. Kenny Irby, one of our senior faculty members and our director of diversity, is passionate about Write Field and Poynter’s role in helping minority boys. PBS is featuring the Write Field in an upcoming program.
A couple of months ago, Poynter worked with the National Press Club to organize a forum on women leaders in America’s newsrooms, and we’re now assembling a series of essays about gender diversity.
Poynter also values diversity in its own ranks. The dean of Poynter, an African-American, just left a couple of months ago, and he’s still a member of our board of trustees. That’s created a faculty opening, and we’re now in the midst of a national search that includes a diverse pool of candidates. My two top leaders, the Vice President for Academic Programs and the President of the Poynter Foundation/Vice President for External Relations, are women. Our finance director, who is a member of our senior leadership team, is Hispanic. And, we have minorities in a number of our key staff positions. Yes, we can do better, and we’re always striving to improve diversity in our ranks.
Credit Franklin for a thorough and thoughtful response, showing that the watchdog is willing to be watchdogged. The hair-splitting, however, is a bit much — the best way to demonstrate an organization’s commitment to diversity is through hiring.