Connecting with Diverse Audiences: A Media Panel with Philadelphia’s Diversity Leaders

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Photos by Bill Allen of Perception Media

 

By Melissa Fordyce, Presby’s Inspired Life Community Support Center

On Thursday, January 17, the Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) invited a panel of six leaders in media diversity to Del Frisco’s steakhouse to share their insights on the role diversity plays in shaping our news outlets and messaging. Moderated by PPRA Hall of Famer David Brown, assistant professor at Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication, the panel featured:

• Sandra Clark, Vice President for News and Civic Dialogue, WHYY
• Mike Days, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Philadelphia Media Network
• Andy Gotlieb, Managing Editor, The Jewish Exponent
• Hernán Guaracao, Publisher and CEO, AL DÍA
• Irving Randolph, Managing Editor, The Philadelphia Tribune
• Mark Segal, Publisher, Philadelphia Gay News

Brown opened the discussion with the question of what diversity is and why the topic is so important. The overwhelming and consistent response from the panelists was that, as a media entity, their respective outlets have the moral and ethical obligation to cover their communities, and those communities are diverse. Therefore, diverse reporting and coverage is a necessity.

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“Philadelphia is a minority-majority city,” said Segal. “If you are a newspaper, you have a social importance to record what is going on in your city at that given time. We have a small staff at PGN, but a diverse staff. How can we cover all different types of people and communities if they aren’t a part of our staff?”

Days added, “If you have a diverse staff and you allow them to be their authentic selves, your company is going to do better.”

Randolph noted the immense responsibility the media has in shaping people’s perceptions. “How people are perceived in many ways is determined by how people are portrayed,” he said. “And in the media business, we often determine, in many ways—in what we report and what we cover—how groups and people are perceived. And how people are perceived often determines policy, action, etc.”

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“Diversity is a part of everything we do,” Gotlieb added. “Even our budgets reflect diversity.”

Clark spoke about how WHYY recently took a strategic look at its programming—what it covers, who it covers, and the types of people that are featured as a part of those stories, i.e. panelists and experts. She noted, “It’s important to think about not only who is included, but who is excluded, and remember much of our country is not exposed to each other.”

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