A culture change

Danya Gil

I can’t speak for every person of color; however, for the past year, I felt it was upon me to do so as a reporter and editor for The Signpost’s Diversity Desk.

Often times, the process of article selection among section editors felt othering, the process of viewing or treating a person or group as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.

I understand the point of the Diversity Desk is to ensure the coverage of people of color and the LGBT community. However, when Wataru Misaka — the first player of Asian descent to play in the National Basketball Association — returns to his alma mater for a film screening, the article is more so about sports or arts and entertainment.

As a Diversity Reporter, I was assigned to cover Misaka’s film screening. The basketball enthusiast in me was thrilled, but in the back of my mind, I felt I would not have received this assignment if the subject were white.

The Diversity Desk was constantly being pushed to cover the events involving WSU guest speakers and artists of color, even though race had nothing to do with the angle of the article. It wasn’t intentional, in my opinion, that other desks were giving their stories to my desk because it dealt with a person of color. It was just an unspoken truth that this was diversity’s role.

Graphic by Aubree Eckhardt

I recently attended a workshop called “Do You Qualify as an Ally?” during a journalism conference. I began to feel uncomfortable as we were discussing microaggressions and diversity within the newsroom.

There had been instances in our newsroom of microaggressions I brushed aside because I did not want to be the sensitive one or the one who could not handle a joke. I did not want to disturb the peace.

When asked what we do to promote diversity within our newsrooms, an attendee said, “We need to look past diversity and toward inclusion.”

She said diversity is often about filling quotas. Diversity in any medium is often a group of white, cisgender males and either a person of color or a woman. Under inclusion, people from different financial backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientation, gender identity and ability are championed.

I knew in that instant that my desk had been filling quotas, and I had to voice it. With my editor in chief sitting next to me, I wanted to have the discussion that second, but I began to think of all the things that could go wrong.

Would this make sense to everyone? Would people feel offended? What changes can I really make? Would I be disturbing the peace?

People within marginalized groups who become the decision-makers in their respective fields often use their voices sparingly. Imposter syndrome — the constant inability to believe that one’s success is deserved — sets in, and you don’t want to decimate relationships and the workplace atmosphere.

However, I realized that if I wanted to be better, I had to be honest and make our newsroom better.

So we’ve had the frank discussions at The Signpost. We realized we were all acting out of the best interests of one another. Microaggressions will be tackled head-on. We’ll all actively write, edit and photograph the stories of the news-makers, regardless of who they are and their background.

Beyond setting the tone for the newsroom, I felt it was necessary that we rid ourselves of the othering sensation that is felt within the Diversity Desk. We looked to the newspapers and magazines that inspired us and decided a name change was integral.

We are now the Culture Desk.

We will continue to spotlight and create a dialogue about underrepresented and underreported people and communities. We will continue to champion inclusion within all fields. We will continue to be the truth-seekers every honest journalist aspires to be.

We at The Signpost understand this is not a perfect change. Some might think the name change means nothing. Some might think the solution to stopping the feeling of othering would be to rid ourselves of a desk dedicated to serving marginalized groups.

I’ve gone through every negative response in my head. However, this metamorphosis is bringing a culture — Dad joke not intended — change to our newsroom.

This is something that we will actively have to discuss as editors come and go. Just because the name of the desk does not outright state we will cover marginalized groups, it does not mean we will stop.

This is an attempt to take the weight of representation off of a singular desk. This is an attempt to better ourselves as professionals. This is an attempt to become a more inclusive news organization, not only for our staff but also for the people we report on and our readers.