How many times have you been to a technology or media conference and noticed the dominance of white male speakers at the podium or the room? That’s what Arizona State University professor and media veteran Retha Hill saw when she attended the recent NewsFoo conference in Phoenix and the ONA conference in Washington, DC.

She wrote about the diversity problem at new media conferences, as well as some possible solutions, in a post on Idea Lab last week. Quickly, the response on social media and in the comments showed that it was a hot topic, and something that resonated with a lot of people in the industry.

So the next day, I organized a Twitter chat at the #mediadiversity hashtag, and invited Retha Hill, Doug Mitchell of New U (and former NPR), and Rafat Ali (founder of PaidContent) to participate. I threw out some questions and thought it was an excellent chat. Not only did we talk about the problems in the industry, but we talked about solutions and what we could do to make conferences — and newsrooms — more diverse.

Below is an edited version of the tweets from that conversation last week on Twitter, as culled via KeepStream. You can see a longer version of the chat here.

Plus, Robert Hernandez had a very personal take on this in OJR, and here’s his conclusion:

If we don’t invest in recruiting and training members of diverse groups to help us do and advanced journalism … we are royally screwed.

My New Year’s resolution is to harness my access and network to improve diversity across the board for web journalism. But I need your help. I need your ideas.

More importantly, in your newsrooms, your communities (and those you are not a part of) need your help. Reach out, connect, participate, preach and downright fight to ensure your news org’s journalism reflects the diverse community it covers. Help it stay relevant.

It’s hard to argue with his resolution.

UPDATE (1/6/11): A group of people, including NABJ’s Benet Wilson and AAJA’s Emma Carew, set up a shared public spreadsheet of people of color who would be great potential conference speakers. That way, when conference organizers are wondering who to contact to speak at their conferences, they’ll have this handy list available. As Wilson says in a blog post about it:

It’s still a work in progress. A small, core group will work to keep the list up to date and try to get it a bit more organized. But we need your help. Please post a link to this blog to your journalism networks. Have your friends and colleagues send their best nominations (including yourself) with the appropriate details. You can forward your submissions to anyone listed on the home page of the document.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

Related