Checklist For Gatekeepers

For a weekend, the gatekeepers explored obstacles to improved coverage of race and ethnicity and ultimately turned to actions they would take when they returned to their newsrooms.  Here are highlights gleaned from varied “to-do” lists:


  • Track, recruit and develop minority journalists more vigorously. Seek new sources of talent. Expand the “pipeline.”
  • Make it a “personal responsibility” to mentor journalists of color.
  • Diversify newsroom management, which can enrich story ideas and help retain minority staffers.
  • Create a newsroom climate that fosters candid discussion of racial and ethnic issues in stories. Schedule regular meetings. Loosen tongues. Persist.
  • Encourage frontline editors to take more risks with race stories.
  • Treasure the “go-to” person who has the ear of minority staff.
  • Involve the whole newsroom in analyzing racial and ethnic coverage and assuring diversity in images and sources. 
  • Review beats and make sure they are structured to cover stories “across a changing demographic landscape.”
  • Increase the staff’s skill in covering racial and ethnic stories (offer everything from seminars to foreign language lessons).
  • Find ways (such as awards and Page One display) to reward excellent journalism that reflects diversity.


  • Push relentlessly for more imaginative and sophisticated stories. Stop treating race as mainly a “problem story.”
  • Focus on compelling human tales. Give voice to “extraordinarily ordinary people.”  Reduce use of experts.
  • Invest more staff time in developing subtle stories that provide context and promote deeper understanding of race and ethnicity.
  • Assign reporters to race stories based on their competence, interest and passion.  But make sure journalists of color are part of the editorial process. Use their “different lenses.”
  • Create (and update) multicultural source lists for the newsroom.


  • Push beyond your comfort zone. Address race more directly.Stay humble. In a swiftly changing nation, there is much you “don’t know that you don’t know.”
  • Develop multiracial relationships outside the office. Avoid “sundown segregation” when the workday ends.
  • Use workshop members for advice when you have a problem.
  • Do homework. Increase your knowledge of diverse communities — through reading, brown bag lunches, neighborhood field trips.
  • Sometimes you can “raise the bar by going to the bar.”