Commentary

'Wall Street Journal' Promotion Of Jones Is Right Step In Diversity Effort

The protests following the killing of George Floyd while in police custody have led news publishers to discuss whether they've addressed workplace conditions for minorities and improved diversity. These issues have simmered for years, but have taken on a renewed urgency that's likely to have a lasting effect on publishers.

The Wall Street Journal last week promoted Brent Jones to a newly created position as editor of culture, training and outreach to oversee efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. It's important the newspaper put his name on the masthead, not only as a sign of authority, but also to provide greater transparency into its management.

Jones' appointment comes about a month after more than 150 journalists at the WSJ sent a letter to upper management describing the newspaper's coverage of race as "problematic." The letter recommended it hire more people of color in leadership roles and update the terminology to describe identity groups in line with current industry standards.

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For example, the WSJ adopted the style to capitalize "Black" when referring to identify as members of the "African diaspora," as described by the Associated Press's writing guide. The New York Times is among the news organizations that have adopted that standard. CNN and MediaPostcapitalize both Black and White.

However, changes to the style guide are mostly symbolic, and shouldn't distract from other efforts to expand coverage of issues that are significant to people of color. That's especially true as Generation Z reaches adulthood as the most diverse demographic group in the history of the United States.

Nonwhites and Hispanics last year represented a majority of people under age 16 in the United States, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The country's Asian population expanded by 30% in the past decade, faster than the 20% growth among Hispanics, 12% increase for Black Americans and 4.3% gain for Whites.

These demographic shifts will become more pronounced in the next 30 years, when Whites are forecast to make up less than half the total U.S. population. Ideally, media organizations will continue to evolve to reflect that diversity in their news coverage and managerial ranks.

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