The Ithacan has always prided itself on being a community newspaper. One that strives to serve every student, faculty and staff member on this campus. However, we at The Ithacan need to recognize that we have not always lived up to our status as a representative news outlet.
That’s why we’re trying something new. The Ithacan has recently created its very first community outreach team, which will be managed by senior Kat Walsh, a film, photography and visual arts major. Her position will solely focus on researching and understanding The Ithacan’s relationship with the people it serves, particularly those belonging to marginalized groups.
The Ithacan has always had a predominantly cisgender, white editorial board and, with that, a cisgender, white reporting staff. The Ithacan has propagated staffing trends that also dominate the journalism profession. According to The 2017 Newspaper Diversity Survey, 81 percent of New York Times employees are white, 81 percent of Wall Street Journal employees are white and 69 percent of Washington Post employees are white. Of those three newsrooms, only the Washington Post achieved a 50/50 gender ratio among employees, while most news outlets surveyed averaged a 60 percent male dominance in newsrooms.
The Ithacan serves as the training ground for the next generation’s journalists. We have to do better if we want to improve the already dismal representation that plagues an incredibly important field in our democratic society. Journalists hold power. But if those journalists who wield power have limited cultural perspectives and experiences, you can imagine that various abuses could go unreported. Look to the #MeToo movement: It took years for our society’s reporters to decide that those abuses were worth covering.
This isn’t to say that The Ithacan has ever maliciously misrepresented its campus community. I promise every reader who picks up this paper or scrolls through our website that the good people who produce our journalism have nothing but passion and integrity in what they do. We’ve covered critical issues like cultural taxation, microaggressions, sexism and LGBTQ marginalization at Ithaca College. The Ithacan’s editorial board recognizes what a profound privilege it is to be the storytellers for this campus. But we’re not above critique. We’re certainly not above betterment.
We want to hold the title of a community newspaper with pride and honesty. But, in order to do that, we need to recognize that we may not have this entire campus’ trust, nor have we fully represented our campus community, particularly those who belong to marginalized groups. Journalism should always serve those who may lack power in our community, and it is a shame that there are those who feel that central value has not been upheld for them. If we’ve lost your trust, here is our formal apology. With that comes this formal invitation: Come help us be better. We understand that our campus community is not responsible for the actions and betterment of this organization, but we also understand that we cannot move toward becoming more inclusive without the help of our readers — especially the ones whose critiques have been so valuable for us in the past.
We’ll be holding monthly public discussion sessions, starting at the end of October, to learn how we can better serve the people we represent in this community. We’ll also be conducting audits of our sourcing to establish whether or not we may be unintentionally propagating gender or racial disparities in our reporting that exist in our society. That way we can be held accountable by you, our readers, to improve.
We’re here to represent you, to listen to you and honor your stories. We hope you join us on this journey to becoming a more representative, inclusive community newspaper.
Grace Elletson, Editor in Chief
Kat Walsh, Community Outreach Manager
The Ithacan’s editorial board