Christopher Nelson, freelance journalist and graduate student at Georgetown University Law Center, came back from this year’s SABEW convention pumped up about journalism but wondering about what was missing.
Nelson attended SABEW’s (Society of American Business Editors and Writers) annual convention in Indianapolis as one of two fellows sponsored by Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.
“It was an enriching experience, a welcome opportunity to have an up close and personal introduction to the world of business and economics reporting,” Nelson wrote afterward. “Still, one thing struck me while there: the lack of people of color at the conference.
“Given the importance of reporting on the economy, including jobs numbers, the growth or lack thereof of national and international companies, consumer spending, tax policy, trade policy, and myriad other issues, it was quite startling. So I decided to explore the topic of diversity in business reporting.”
And that he did for NABJdigital Blog: Where are the journalists of color covering the business beat?
“After being fortunate enough to receive a Reynolds Center fellowship which allowed me to attend SABEW for the first time, I felt it very important to share my observations. In my first post - Learning about business news – I wrote about my conference experience generally.
In my second post, I focused on something which struck me while attending SABEW, a seeming lack of diversity in the business reporter ranks.
As a former board member for the National Association of Black Journalists, I know of the importance of a) raising an issue thus challenging people’s awareness levels and b) being solution-oriented discussing available resources which could likely help inspire someone who hadn’t thought of business reporting to think of it as a beat which presents wondrous opportunities.”
IMPORTANCE OF BUSINESS
SABEW’s executive director Warren Watson said the organization has many opportunities for networking, training or job opportunities.
“It is an embarrassment to all of us that we have such a lack of diversity in business journalism,” Watson said. “It’s really an issue we need to figure out.” He said SABEW encourages journalists of color to try business journalism and to reach out to existing members to get involved.
Benét Wilson, a freelance aviation writer/blogger and chair of NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force, stressed how a knowledge of business is important for every beat and can open doors for journalists of color.
“I have been a business journalist for a large part of my career,” said Wilson who is also a Reynolds Center blogger. “Every beat you cover – from entertainment to the court system - includes an aspect of business. Many of us are already being pushed to follow the money, so there’s never been a better time to cover this niche on your chosen beats or in general. The opportunities are endless, with newspapers, magazines, trade publications and websites looking for talented journalists, especially those of color, who can break down the numbers.”
LOOKING FOR WAYS TO FIX IT
Will Sutton, Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at Grambling State University, also approached the topic with a solution-oriented approach.
“As a longtime diversity advocate, editor and journalist, like Nelson, I was appalled but not surprised when looking around the Society of Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) conference in Indy,” Sutton said.
Sutton, a member of SABEW’s diversity committee, added a little historical context: “There was a time – when I was president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) as well as before and after – that NABJ had a business journalism task force. It was a small but growing and dedicated group of black professionals. Unfortunately, the effort waned.”
Like Nelson, Sutton decided to write something about the lack of diversity in business journalism.
“Yes, I can put on my angry black journalist hat and blast all types of people for what’s not being done,” he said. “I’m pretty good at it when I want to be. However, I decided to write something about what’s wrong and how to fix it. I’m even better at that when I decide to be.”
Stay tuned here for a piece from Sutton. And he says, meanwhile, if you have comments, ideas and suggestions, he welcomes them. Email Will Sutton at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Facebook or Linkedin/WillSutton.