Diversity Serves Your Audience
By Jennifer Randolph -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/24/2003 8:00:00 PM
Diversity is not a new topic, but it is an increasingly stated priority among most American businesses. The cable-television and broadcast industries have taken special efforts to address these priorities, launching admirable initiatives through NAMIC, WICT, The Emma Bowen Foundation, the T. Howard Foundation, the IRTS Foundation and the Kaitz Foundation. Enlightened senior managers know that diversity brings new perspectives and experiences that have profound and long-reaching effects. But look at the top echelon of senior management across most companies and you'll recognize we still have far to go.
For the media, it is not only the issues of employment equality and opportunity that are of concern here, but the entire evolution of content and thus, more crucially, the future of the business itself.
It is shortsighted to focus only on the impact diversity has on enriching a workforce, which by itself is progress worth celebrating. But without the input of a vastly changed workforce, we will quickly fall out of touch with the ever-changing audiences we must speak to in order to exist.
Diversity is not simply black and white. It is a multi-dimensional imperative that affects the whole tenor of the decisions we make, scripts we write and news we cover. To truly reach our demographically evolving country, we must be attuned to languages and ideas from different cultures, ages, races, incomes and lifestyles. Even without changing ownership caps, fewer and fewer companies control more of the media, so new voices can only come from within. It is imperative to have varied experience, knowledge and skill sets in decision-making positions. A revitalized pool of talent strengthens our industry.
Most top managers have worked their way up through the organization. So we know that the "way in" is usually from the bottom. For those not born into a "career trajectory," we must create opportunity for them.
Court TV has made diversity a priority and has rolled out a number of initiatives including voluntary mentorships, pairing employees with staff to encourage a creative exchange of ideas at all levels.
But, we think an even earlier point of entry is at the intern level. Court TV emphasizes diversity in hiring through its internship program. Next year, we will add fellowships, offering minority interns support in order to spend the summer in New York City and to gain valuable work experience here.
We encourage other companies to make similar commitments. This would not only help someone gain valuable work experience and open career doors but also would expand the scope of qualified and talented job candidates. While we recognize that internship programs will not produce immediate results in revolutionizing the executive suite, we believe that it is another step in a long-term effort to broaden the pool of entry-level minorities and to groom them throughout their careers. In so doing, we take a big step towards ensuring our own legacy.
Randolph is vice president of organizational development at Court TV.
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