NW Journalists of Color awards scholarships as newsrooms lag in ethnic diversity

Local ethnic journalism umbrella organization honors five college students.

Local ethnic journalism umbrella organization honors five college students.

While our nation may be moving quickly to become a true rainbow of racial diversity, America’s newsrooms aren’t keeping pace. 

"Minorities make up 35 percent of the nation's population," said Sanjay Bhatt, a Seattle Times business reporter speaking at Tuesday's (June 7) Northwest Journalists of Color's 25th anniversary scholarship awards. "If our newsrooms reflected that growing diversity, we would have more than 14,000 journalists of color working at the nation’s newspapers."

While the number of professional journalists at online and print newspapers rose to roughly 41,500, Bhatt added, the number of minority journalists dropped to 5,300, according to a recent American Society of News Editors report. Bhatt called the trend "disturbing" and added, "Our mainstream news media should reflect the community, and our readers and viewers are more diverse than ever."

Bhatt, current president of the local Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) chapter, was one of several speakers celebrating the NJC’s anniversary, and the awarding of scholarships to five area university students from the several organizations gathered under the NJC tent.

The associations include AAJA, the Seattle Association of Black Journalists, 911 Media Arts Center, and various public and private contributors.

To the awardees and supporters gathered at KING-TV for the event, Bhatt noted, "It’s not just the money; it's far more important the message we send to [you]: We believe in you. That’s sometimes left unsaid, and it’s an important message."

Three cash scholarships ranging from $1000 to $1,500 (individual grants were not disclosed) were awarded by the NJC to: Joanna Nolasco, a University of Washington (UW) junior, studying journalism and political science; Katelin Chow, a UW junior studying journalism and Asian studies; Gina Cole, a senior as Western Washington University studying journalism and communications. The Founder’s Scholarship, honoring the founders of Seattle’s AAJA chapter, went to Peter Sessum, a UW senior majoring in journalism.  The scholarship funds the winner’s trip to the national AAJA convention, taking place Aug. 10-13 in Detroit. Mary Jean Spadafora, a junior at the UW studying journalism, political science and geology, won the 911 Media Scholarship sponsored by 911 Media Center, which will covers course costs for classes at the center.

Receiving the association’s Leadership Award was Frank Blethen, long-time publisher of The Seattle Times, who was honored for his commitment to diversity at the paper and personal support for the NJC.

The association has awarded 110 scholarships in its 25-year history.

Editor's note: Crosscut's three regular editors are white. We don't have an exact count of freelancers or their ethnicity, but we seek a wider range of contributors. Interested writers can contact editor@crosscut.com.  


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