At the 68th Southern Regional Press Institute hosted at Savannah State University, I was honored to be asked to be a part of a skill building and professional development workshop. The workshop was titled, “Gender and Ethnic Diversity in Newswriting- Finding and Writing Compelling Stories”.
Being an African- American woman in journalism from the beginning has been difficult for me. The first question the director of the workshop, Professor Jessica Sparks asked was, “How has gender and ethnic diversity affected you in the newsroom?”
For me after graduating from Savannah State University with my bachelors in Mass Communication with a concentration in Online Journalism, I faced an uphill battle on which I put on myself. In the beginning, I believed that due to my ethnicity, my gender and also having tattoos would be deciding factors in my quest to be a journalist. When I first started freelancing, I was concerned that people I would interview would only see my outer appearance and not my talent.
I soon learned that the very thing I was most nervous about was the very thing needed in this day and age of journalism. When I freelanced for Connect Savannah Editor Jim Morekis, who was also a consultant for the workshop, I quickly learned that my differences were my strength. Connect Savannah is an alternative weekly newspaper where I fit right in.
Jenel Few, who was also a consultant for the workshop, discussed her being the first African American full-time reporter for the Savannah Morning News. She explained that during that time, many newsrooms were expected to diversify the newsroom to become more inclusive.
Luckily, when I got hired at the Coastal Courier, diversity was already in the newsroom. From a Cuban- American general manager, Jewish editor and African- American videographer and graphic designer, our newsroom feels full of people from many different backgrounds and ideologies.
The second part of the workshop discussed how gender and ethnic diversity has helped me write and find compelling stories. Being a young black woman raised around many different ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic statuses has assisted in my passion of giving a voice to the voiceless.
My senior project was about the “Incarcerated Community,” a look at the path to prison for Savannah youth. I myself was once on a path to incarceration until I left Atlanta and came south to Savannah to attend college. It was because I had experienced my own hardships as a youth, I was able to relate to the youth who turned to crime to either make money or to protect themselves.
It is because of my past experiences, being a woman and growing up black in America that gives me and others like me the extra edge of being a journalist. We have been oppressed, stereotyped and judged. And now we can give a voice to the oppressed, stereotyped and judged.