The first webinar held by the newly created Network for Diversity in Latin American Journalism addressed the myths about diversity in journalism and shared lessons on how to overcome them. Journalists Lucia Solis, Ana Acosta, and María Eugenia Ludueña shared reflections and best practices for applying a diversity approach to journalism during a conversation held in Spanish on Jan. 26.
The first myth dismantled by the journalists was that “a human rights approach means that journalism is not neutral and is in favor of certain individuals or groups.” According to Solis, Peruvian journalist and gender editor and moderator of the conversation, “the journalistic coverage of diversity does nothing more than make visible those who historically have not been visible.” Ludueña, on the other hand, co-director of Agencia Presentes, pointed out that “journalists cannot be neutral in the face of human rights’ violations.”
“Yes, we can provide verified, checked, [and] very good quality information. [But] I’m going to relate this to another human right, which is the right to communication, a human right that is perhaps less talked about and also involves many gender inequalities,” she said.
Solis said that news coverage of diversity also seeks “to educate public opinion about human rights, what they are, because it seems there’s still no consensus about what are rights and what are privileges. So that’s why it’s so important to understand what they really are.”
On the second myth, “diversity in journalism is only possible in digital native, alternative or independent news outlets.” Acosta, editor of Ecuadorian community news outlet Wambra and cofounder of the Zarelia Festival, said that in recent years many digital native media have emerged, founded and led by women and with a gender focus. In these media, different stories and ways of narrating have also emerged, she said, “by and about people who were previously virtually invisible in traditional media.”
“Latin America is one of the regions where there is a concentration of media that has greatly blocked access to a diverse range of people [to the media]. So, it seems that this myth is actually a reality because [independent] news outlets have been building and disputing these dominant narratives. But that does not mean it’s impossible. What [independent] news outlets have made possible and have shown is that it’s something that can be done,” she said.
For Acosta, in recent years there has been “a sort of contagion” from native to traditional media in addressing diversity. “Audiences have forced them to do so. It almost seems like it’s not been a decision taken by directors, but rather pressure from audiences themselves, from people themselves saying 'look, here is a reality you are not describing and that’s why you’re being left behind',” she said.
The third myth, ‘when we talk about diversity in journalism, we mean only gender and sexual diversity,” can be deconstructed through an intersectional approach to diversity, Ludueña said. She mentioned feature stories from Agencia Presentes that deal with intersections between identity and social factors such as age, race, ethnicity, and origin, in addition to gender and sexuality.
“Identity is not made of a single layer. To think that diversity is also made of a single layer is restrictive and can even be a trap, limiting the way we look at it,” she said. “When we start looking at diversity from this intersectional point of view, things get more complex and more interesting as well.”
Acosta criticized the practice of some news outlets of simply creating a "women's issues" editor’s desk, without pushing for changes in their approach to news and content, and in the newsroom itself.
“Diversity implies an approach in which you ask yourself and question yourself about certain ways in which the media is built and how journalistic practice is exercised. So we’re talking about a questioning of the content, which implies presence and visibility [of certain topics and identities]. But it’s not only the content, it also implies a transformation and a negotiation about how we narrate things,” she said.
For Ludueña, one of the main challenges consists precisely in “describing the diversity of diversity” and making positive experiences visible, avoiding presenting the experience of diversity only “as a conflict.”
“If we talk about sexual diversity, there is not only one way, for example, to be a bisexual person or only one way to be a lesbian or only one way to be a trans person. It’s not the same to be gay in Rio de Janeiro, in the Guatemalan jungle, [or] in south Argentina among the Mapuche. So what we have to do is to run away from stereotypes or at least try to be aware of them. I also think it’s important to reevaluate our identities in a Latin America that is so diverse, so rich and so beautiful. Also unfortunately so violent, so these stories circulate and also so we build new reference points,” she said.
The next webinar in Spanish in this series, "How to include more LGBTQ+ people in newsrooms," is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST). Registration is now open.
Pilar Cuartas, gender and diversity coordinator at El Espectador in Colombia, will moderate the discussion with Mariana Escobar Bernoske, gender and diversity journalist at El Espectador, and Felipe Morales Sierra, who works in the legal section of La Disidencia, El Espectador's sexual diversity channel.
The third webinar will be "Racism and discrimination in migration coverage, how to confront them" and will take place on Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. CST. Mexican journalist Mariana Alvarado will moderate this webinar with Perla Trevizo, a Mexican journalist specializing in migration who writes for ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, and Nadia Sanders, a Mexican investigative journalist.
The fourth and final webinar, "Gender Perspective and How to Achieve Intersectional Coverage," is scheduled for March 9 at 5 p.m. CST. María Teresa Juárez, Mexican screenwriter and journalist, will moderate the discussion with Aminetth Sánchez, investigative journalist and director at La Lista, and Alexa Castillo Nájera, journalist and sexologist.
Those who participate in all four webinars can receive a certificate of participation from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and the Network for Diversity in Latin American Journalism.