Since I was adopted from China, I have experienced racial discrimination throughout my life. It became even worse when my parents stopped homeschooling me and placed me in public school. I was embarrassed that some people could not accept me for the way I am. In fact, I hated being Chinese and wanted to be white, like my parents. I ate lunch alone with my sister Ma Cai, who is also adopted from China. I was depressed and bitter for the first two years of high school and hated almost everything about life.
At the beginning of my junior year, I had the opportunity to join The Voice, a section of The State Journal-Register written by teens. The experience gave me the chance to deal with these frustrations as I realized the importance of good journalism and the dangers of stereotypes and skewed reporting.
People need accurate and diverse perspectives. I think it's every journalists role to cover diversity in the media. When I use the term diversity, I'm not talking about a reporter who interviews an African-American during Black History Month.
The media must report on people as individuals, not as groups. Journalists should look for different perspectives and beware of portraying a person's racial makeup as who they are-- it's merely just a facet of them. I'm a minority myself who has been through a lot, and to an extent I know what it's like.
Furthermore, diversity doesn't mean just race. I'm talking about all kinds of diversity - such as people who identify themselves as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or queer). Mainstream media can sometimes appear homophobic about this community, and there are many special interest groups out there to demonize it. It’s the media’s responsibility to provide expansive coverage and address preconceived stereotypes when they are part of the story.
My best advice for other young journalists, like myself, is to study news coverage and see how they cover diversity--note ways they can improve coverage. Know the ins-and-outs of pop culture, because it has an extremely huge role in society and usually reflects what people are thinking these days. And as always, involve yourself in new things--read books, keep an open mind.
When I break more into the journalism field, I would definitely love to work with some type of media devoted to promoting diversity. For the most part, my reporting will hopefully keep people more informed about different societies.
Aimee LaPlant will enter her freshman year this fall at the University of Missouri- -Columbia where she hopes to major in convergence journalism and report stories through multiple forms of media. Currently she is an intern at The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois.