As newspaper writers and editors, we understand the task we have at hand: telling stories that accurately and holistically represent current events in our world. The undertaking involves an exhaustive process of researching, reporting, interviewing, fact-checking, writing and rewriting. It’s a daunting and difficult task, and there is always room for improvement.
Still, it’s impossible to tell the whole story when major characters are overlooked or ignored, and like most media organizations, The Daily Californian shares in a problematic history of inaccurately representing marginalized communities.
On March 1, 1972, a Chinese American newspaper based in San Francisco called East West published an article titled “UC minority students hit Daily Cal bias.” The story made two major allegations about the Daily Cal:
- “The Daily Cal often does not accept stories which are of importance to non-whites, rewrites stories to fit ‘their’ concepts of non-whites, did not pay reporters as promised, had a tendency to ‘lose,’ ‘misplace,’ or ‘forget articles and news releases from minority groups and reporters, and are very vague about their policies and use this vagueness as an excuse for their mistakes.’ ”
- Rainbow Energies Voicing Anger Against Mis-Managed Press, or REVAAMP, alleged the Daily Cal did not honor its agreement with the university to hire two Latinx staff members in exchange for a $25,000 subscription. East West alleged that one employee did not receive compensation for more than five months and that the other was initially rejected before being hired.
Among editors in chief, it is common practice to know the Daily Cal’s history. Our newspaper’s most well-known and oft-cited narrative is its story of independence: In 1971, in response to a violent clash between protesters and police over the use of People’s Park, the UC Board of Regents chose to construct an 8-foot fence around the land. We published a controversial editorial urging students and community members to reclaim the park — and they did. The university came down hard on us. It fired our upper management who supported the protests. In an unprecedented decision, we chose to break away from the university and its funding to establish our editorial independence.
We will always remain proud of our progressive history of advocacy and social change, but the Daily Cal has its share of shortcomings and faults. Often, we have not gone far enough.
This article, recently unearthed from a microfilm strip in UC Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies Library, is one example of the mistakes our paper has made. Of course, the allegations reported by East West may contain a degree of bias and may lack the full details of the case. Still, such articles, when treated as a historical source, reflect the opinions of various communities from that time. One thing is clear — there were voices that criticized the Daily Cal’s failure to address its weakness with diversity and unwillingness to build community with students from marginalized backgrounds.
East West raised valid concerns that are still relevant today. The Daily Cal has fallen short when it comes to promoting diversity on campus. Even 45 years after East West’s story came out, there are still signs that we have ways to go in making our office an inclusive space.
Our goal as a student newspaper is to represent the student body, but our historical actions have contradicted that goal.
There have been efforts to bolster representation in the past. Twelve years ago, the Daily Cal launched a diversity scholarship. By hosting a comedy event, the Daily Cal hoped to raise enough money to distribute scholarships to its staff.
But leadership continually rotates in a college organization, and the energy and initiative from 2005 has, at times, floundered. In order for long-term change to happen, the Daily Cal needs to undergo an institutional transition after which every editor in chief will prioritize diversity with the same passion.
I have only a couple of months left before my time as editor ends. My main goal is and has been to change the culture of our paper to one that is more focused on giving a voice to marginalized communities on campus.
We need to improve our recruitment efforts. Effective outreach must mean more than tabling and sending a single email to campus groups a week before our application deadline. It must involve a yearlong effort in which we constantly work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to change our paper. If your group chooses to ignore our emails, we do not blame you. But we will keep trying to reach out to you and address your concerns along the way.
Within our office, we will implement a committee for staff who belong to underrepresented communities. The committee will serve as the formal channel for our staff to discuss issues surrounding diversity. They will meet to ensure that the Daily Cal is taking the right steps to turn our workplace into an environment that does not marginalize the community it serves to represent.
In addition, the news we tackle needs to be more real and relevant to underrepresented students. Our coverage must shift toward giving campus groups the opportunity to shine and spreading the word about issues that affect their lives.
Your feedback is essential. We want you to keep us in check by utilizing our “Letters to the Editor” section. Members of our community can provide insight should we fall short as a newspaper. If you find issue with our editorial decisions, “Letters to the Editor” is the space for airing your concerns.
Obviously, eliminating our institutional flaws won’t happen overnight. But my hope is that the concerns East West raised 45 years ago will finally get the attention they deserve. We aim to make great strides, through our coverage and in our hiring, to pay attention to diversity.
As a leader of this newspaper, I must be able to identify our weaknesses. And diversity, I feel, is our biggest. Here is my way of moving the Daily Cal forward.
Ritchie Lee is the editor in chief and president. Contact him at [email protected]