AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity – Linda Shockley

AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity in Journalism Education

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

School of Journalism

University of Texas at Austin

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Interview Subject: Linda Shockley           
Interviewer: Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez
Interview date: 08/08/2013

Number of Recorded Segments: 3
Interview length: 01:17:49
Language: English
Reviewer: Trent Boulter
Date of review for index: 12/17/14

Table of Contents:

0:00 – 0:20 Start and focus camera
How did you become interested in journalism? Role models?:
0:20 Her interest started around 14 and felt she wanted to pursue that career and read the newspaper as early as first grade. At some point she came up to her mom and asked what “rape” meant and that’s when she started preventing her from reading the newspaper.

1:08 When she was 14 Claude Lewis was one of her role models and there was a stunning anchor on CBS named Eaddie Huggins. She said to herself, “I can do that.”

1:52 she got in touch with Claude Lewis after she was told by her counselor that she should become a teacher and write in her spare time. Her parents weren’t in support of a journalism career because they didn’t think it was financially sustainable. Claude suggested she write to an organization in Princeton called The Journalism Fund, which was used for information about journalism programs, scholarships, etc.

3:06 After using the guide we went to University of Bridgeport for a visit and that was it. Her mom decided that’s where she needed to be. The cost was about 6,000 at that time. She wanted to go to Syracuse but they offered her a scholarship.

3:43 She graduated 4 years later and interned in Ganet newspapers where she had an encounter with Jerry Saass.

4:09 Her hometown newspaper turned me down for a internship and so someone suggested that she call Jerry in Rochester, New York. She called him and he offered her one of two internship positions.

5:26 In the summer of 1975 she worked as an intern in Westchester County, New York. She worked for 2 papers (Sleepy Hollow being one of them).

6:00 Just before graduating she was offered a job covering education for Ganet in Ossining, NY.

6:12 (benefit of working for Ganet as a minority woman)

6:25 she worked for that company for 12 years, starting in education, but changing responsibilities ever couple of years. She used typewriters and other old technologies etc.

7:25 Covering schools, there was a big effort to desegregate schools so that was eye-opening touching a topic that was extremely controversial.

7:54 She felt a lot of support from her newsroom and the corporation as well. She moved into the production area, and eventually became a bureau chief.

9:15 She also had a very diverse staff. (African Americans, Asian Americans) Eventually she became a city editor in a major city. She was even able to attend conventions and conferences on the companies dime. That way she could progress and develop different resources and mainstreaming techniques to further diversity.

11:06 Here she adds that she joined the NABJ and other things and served on other committees which helped her to get experience that turned her into the journalist she is and promote diversity. Ganet really wanted to make an impact on diversity.

12:55 Another thing she found important was Ganet’s willingness to offer opportunities and move people around so they could advance their career regardless of gender or race.

13:38 Now she feels extremely fortunate to have worked with particularly influential people that, at a young age, she didn’t quite appreciate at the time. Those influential people, some of them had actually participated in the civil-rights movement.

14:10 Through the Michelle Clark program, people of different minorities were able to get the training they needed to change their career and begin participating as journalists. (Lists different notable people that helped do training)

15:18 At one point she was encouraged to come to a meeting in D.C. where Jay Harris was making a presentation saying that media should reflect the ethnic makeup of the country. She didn’t understand the implications that presentation and thought carried.

17:10 (Pivotal time in American History – was there a time when you became aware of the need for that diversity in media?)

17:38 growing up in a community of predominantly African American in New Jersey, we always had a feeling of self governance. But we didn’t see that representation in the general new media. However there was a thing called Tuesday Magazine that was all about African Americans. It was filled with features and things going on in the AA community. This went on even until the 1970’s.

18:58 Being at Ganett with the different conversations about diversity really struck her while in high school and into college.

19:32 She had great admiration for Encore, (1st AA newsmagazine) and felt she might want to work there. She knew there needed to be a voice and felt she could be part of that cohort of people providing that voice for these publications.

(Do you remember any stories or pieces that you produced that touched on diversity in a particular way?)

20:15 Being part of the diversity committee, she remembers a story about children born with heart deformities and one of the parents was a teenage girl of color. The editor felt like they couldn’t use her because they didn’t want to highlight a girl having a child out of wed-lock. Another parent was a latino woman who had a different surname than the father and the editor didn’t want to use them either. There was a total lack of understanding of cultural practices that had to be addressed.

22:45 There was another story about illegal immigration. This was in the early 1980’s. There was a question about marriage for green cards. Is it a fake marriage? Immigration fraud? There was a specific tip that lead to the focus on Haitians, regardless that other groups were doing it as well. She gives examples of Irish immigrants doing this as well. It’s important to broaden the context and look at the underlying problem instead of the specific instance being brought to everyone’s attention.

24:45 This is even an issue of terminology with “civil rights leader” v. “human rights leader”.

(At the time did you feel that minorities were treated fairly and equally in the newsroom?)

25:25 In many instances it’s episodic, there are many people that rise to the top but she felt that women were marginalized. She sites the lack of personal Pulitzer prize awards given to AA women for their work. She conducted a survey and found that these women felt they were the “hand-maidens” of the newsroom. They were supposed to go get the information and then another person would write the story.

28:06 She did have a conversation with one woman from the study that said that they needed to be willing to put in the extra time. She eventually found an interest in a specific place and went there to learn and report about it so that she could gain knowledge and expertise in a particular area. Don’t just complain about it, but do something about it. Prepare yourself.

(How did you get involved with Dow Jones?)

30:20 She came in 1988 but the organization had been established in the 50’s. They typically tried to recruit well-rounded people with liberal arts degrees that the organization felt could accept a position helping to report for the Washington Post. Later in the 1960’s you started to see women and people of color join those programs. She gives examples of some of the people to receive awards and internships from the organization.

32:05 Later Paul Swenson introduced the copy editing program to an ethnically/gender diverse group because he felt people from any background could produce the same quality of content. Followed by examples of success stories from this program.

34:25 Paul Swenson decided in the 60’s that these programs for high school journalism teachers should include people of color. He went to a HBCU (Savanah St.) to find people willing to participate and used a professor and student as the example in some of these trainings. That example student later became a participant in the program and a successful journalist herself.

35:28 in ‘68 the Fund started the first Urban Journalism workshop. It was in response to President Johnson’s question as to why there continued to be urban disturbances in the U.S. One of the things the commission determined was that American was two separate societies; one black and one white. The focus on the media talked about the lack of representation of African American people, and coverage of issues regarding urban areas. They recommended training African American students to become journalists.

37:15 The result of the workshop was a little group of journalists and if only 10% of the participants went on to work in the field they would consider it a success. 30% actually did become journalists (examples of those individuals).

38:25 In 1988 a colleague shared a job opening that he had received about an opening at the Dow Jones News Fund. He suggested it to her and she took a chance at it.

(DJNF had helped numerous people, tell us about the years you were there and how the programs developed)

40:37 The Fund was always looking to progress. She shares the different programs that started with focus on high schools.

41:18 She talks about John Seagenthall and his work to get the movie “Did You Hear What I Said?” made and what goes into being a reporter and stories they write.

42:37 The fund was always looking to see what else they could do to get their message out, while still addressing the needs for diversity. She also gives an example of one of the classes that was taught by Adams and how that effect is still being felt.

43:54 In 1990 they started a Reporting Scholarship Program to award a $1000 scholarship. Eventually that morphed into the Business Reporting Program because they wanted to encourage more young journalists of color to pursue becoming business journalists. She lists some of the challenges they faced with the program.

45:15 She talks about the gratifying outcomes of the program, and some examples of students that used the scholarship to get herself through school.

47:01 The current status of the DJNF and their programs that are looking to help all students, as well as minorities, become successful journalists.

48:22 She expresses understanding that you can’t achieve diversity of selection if you don’t have diversity in the pool of applicants and that’s why they have focused on reaching out to HBCU and developing training programs across the country.

(Scope of the DJNF and it’s impact)

50:17 For the editing, reporting, and digital programs the number is around 7500-8000. For the high school programs 13000+ up to now. Moving forward we have supported other organizations and their programs.

51:00 A student asked her how she might change her approach to recommending journalism as a career based on what’s going on in the industry? She realized that it wasn’t a question looking at the technical reaction, but how do you tell people to pursue a career in journalism? Especially minorities?

53:20 Her response to that question.

54:34 Facing discrimination in a journalism career,

55:02 Our responsibility in association with discrimination

55:17 Her hope for the progress journalists can facilitate. And the way we can tell the “Truth of our story”

(Newsrooms use of statistics and the numbers of minorities… Suggestions for media to attract the talent that is needed?)

57:54 She doesn’t feel she has a new solution, cites “Girls who Code” and the work they do to promote confidence. “Some things are done by example.” She shares some of those leading by example. In recruitment, “we have to go where the people are.”

(With the rapid changes in media, how does this impact the focus on diversity?)

1:01:43 She expresses a disappointment in the lack of emphasis by media organizations on diversity. She also expresses her feelings that the response of these organizations is a short-sighted approach to the issues that they will eventually face in the future.

1: 03:40 She gives an example of a reporter covering Spanish speaking baseball players and his colleagues lack of understanding of the athlete.

1:05:18 She says we’re not responding to the needs of the people that we represent as members of the media, even if immigration stopped today, which it hasn’t.

1:06:00 “We want to be useful to our population.”

(Do you feel this is a problem in top management?)

01:07:18 She expresses a lot of optimism that people might catch on to the need for change, but a disappointment that most decisions are being driven, not by the journalists, but by investors and advertisers.

1:08:32 There are people that are using their sphere of influence to address certain issues.

1:09:23 The pattern of new media is following that of legacy media

1:10:10 The democratization of media and the place it holds in impacting lives.

(Role of AEJMC)

1:11:20 Experience with AEJMC and using some of the papers and research to help high school students and other students of journalism. Interaction with different committees and interest groups.

1:13:20 The role of AEJMC in shaping the education of journalists and helping faculty to progress.

1:14:07 An example of a professor requiring their students to go to a specific place to find a story to help them become exposed to different ideas and cultures.

(Final thought)
1:16:30 Diversity is not an add-on or an afterthought. It’s part of telling the full story with all of its detail.

AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity

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