Spent an always-fascinating morning talking to the students in David Blow’s journalism ethics class at Castleton State College.
Each year, his students read the paper for a week, then grade us on how inclusive we are in several categories (age, gender, race, religion, ability (read disability if you’re not up on the inclusive terminology), economic status and sexual orientation). Then they invite me in for a review. It’s a lot of fun.
The grades are a bit of a crapshoot (last year we did exceptionally well on having a diversity of ages in the paper, but it was also fair week). David has got a really bright crew this year, judging by their input in the class. The big issue revolves around a basic question of how to deal with minorities in a generally homogenous part of the world: Do you put a column on gay rights in regularly, for instance, or hire a columnist to write on visible minorities every couple of weeks? If so, do you risk isolating that information into the one space instead of spreading it throughout the paper.
But I never leave Dave’s class without some kind of epiphany, and this year it was our F on religion. That’s two years in a row. My excuse was that they don’t look at the Saturday paper, where we routinely run a listing of religious services around the state. But when I’m honest with myself (like while I was driving back to the office), that’s a little convenient; and then I got to work and we have a story coming on Vermont’s increasing percentage of same-sex households (over 1 percent and growing!) and I realized I need to increase the amount and quality of religious information in the paper. Anybody out there know a great communicator with an ecumenical background who wants to write a column twice a month?