Diversity as Comparative Advantage

by Jonah Goldberg

When we looked for a private school for our daughter, my wife and I were stunned to see how so many D.C.-area private schools push diversity as their edge over rival schools. My point isn’t to complain about pursuing diversity, but rather to marvel at the way many — most — of these schools insisted that the reason you should pick us is that we care more about diversity than those other schools. Athletics, academics, the physical plant: These were at best secondary. And the price? Good Lord, don’t even think about using price as a comparative advantage, unless you mean the prestige of being more expensive than other schools. No, teachers and administrators spoke to the parents as if everyone in the room shared the assumption that what everyone wants most in the education of their kids is diversity.

Anyway, what made me think of that was this e-mail from the Society of Professional Journalists:

Dear Jonah,

The joint Excellence in Journalism 2011 conference in New Orleans, Sept. 25-27, will be the journalism event of the year. You don’t want to miss it! Join the Radio Television Digital News Association  and Society of Professional Journalists for cutting-edge professional development sessions; outstanding programs with the best in the industry; and opportunities to network, learn and share with fellow journalists from across the nation.

We’re working hard to present many opportunities for all in the news industry. One important topic is learning about diversity, from the reporters themselves to the stories they cover. Check out some of the thought-provoking diversity sessions:

Exploring Diversity: Race, Ethnic and Community Reporting

This interactive session, for those who work in print, broadcast and online, will offer new approaches to covering diverse populations as well as new ways to tackle reporting on those whose backgrounds may differ from our own. The session will feature hands-on methods on how to work with various groups and the rapidly changing demographics of our nation.

Is Newsroom Diversity Dead?

The diversity landscape has changed. Both staffing and content diversity often take a back seat as editors and news directors are forced to think first about how to adapt to changing business models in a challenging economy. Wanda Lloyd of the Montgomery Advertiser, a long-time diversity advocate, examines the current state of diversity and leads a discussion about developing existing resources and tools for leading a staff in covering communities with more cultural and gender accuracy.

You’ll get these programs and much more in-depth professional development. See the full list of training sessions here, with more on the way.

Now, if you’ve spent any time in the world of mainstream journalism, or even just observing it, you’ll know that seminars, training sessions, conferences, panels, briefings, newsletters dealing with diversity have been commonplace for more than a quarter century. Whether you think that’s a good thing or bad — or a mix of the two — is a topic for another day. But the idea that it still remains a selling point — either in reality or simply in the minds of marketers –  for getting people to attend a conference is really astounding. Yes, they’re offering other events at Excellence in Journalism 2011. But they’re selling it with this stuff. Or they’re trying to.

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