Last year, I was elected to the board of directors of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies—the trade group for 120 or so newspapers across the United States and Canada that kinda sorta have similarities to the Tucson Weekly.
My gig on the board? I am the chairman of the Diversity Committee.
(Yes, it's kinda funny that a white dude from the state that gave the world Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, etc. would be the diversity chair. But I digress.)
The committee is tasked with promoting diversity at AAN newspapers, both in terms of staffing and coverage. We award grants to newspapers that have a minority intern they want to keep around, and to newspapers that want to tackle a minority-focused project. The committee is currently heading up the creation of a new mentorship program that will pair up mentors and mentees from different newspapers. We also try to make sure that programming at various conventions is developed with diversity in mind.
It seems silly that alternative newsweeklies in 2011 would need to have a committee around to keep people thinking about the issue of diversity—yet we do. For some reason, many AAN newspapers tend to be incredibly un-diverse; for example, the 2009 AAN Annual Convention—hosted by this fine newspaper in this fine city—had one black attendee. One.
It also seems silly that Americans as a whole would need to keep thinking about issues of diversity—yet we do. Case in point: The racism spewed forth on the floor of the state Senate by Sen. Lori Klein (and applauded by our very own Sen. Al Melvin).
Read about that in The Skinny this week.