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Columns: Using Media Workshops to Improve Coverage of Campus DiversitySharing the Good News About Diversity
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Making Diversity News

Using Media Workshops to Improve Coverage of Campus Diversity

Lynette Brown, Vice President for Communications and Government Relations, Community College of Philadelphia

Last fall, as part of its ongoing commitment to diversity, Community College of Philadelphia's Communications Office organized a series of campus diversity media workshops. The workshops, which involved administrators, staff, and local journalists, focused on promoting diversity, developing newsworthy stories and programs, and working effectively with the media.

Similar workshops could be held at other institutions in order to enhance promotion of community service efforts and improve media coverage. Community service-focused workshop participants might include faculty and staff involved in service learning or community outreach projects; student leaders involved in community projects; community members or representatives from community organizations that work with your institution; and key college administrators.

Planning the Community College of Philadelphia workshops began three months prior to the actual date by checking the availability of key participants. Letters of invitation came from our President, and participants were asked to bring materials about their programs and activities. Two-hour workshops were held in order to fit easily into people's schedules. Our agenda included discussions about the College's media coverage with recent examples; various types of media; the importance of sources; and quotes. The College's media policies and protocol were reviewed and discussed.

For the Community College of Philadelphia workshops, we designed an exercise in which participants wrote headlines and a lead paragraph as if they were writing a news story. During the workshops, we critiqued the headlines and lead paragraphs and discussed successful writing tips.

To help participants understand how to talk to the media about their programs, two local journalists were invited to one of the sessions to discuss deadlines, how they decide whether a story is newsworthy, and how to pitch stories. A report drafted after the workshops included institutional goals and suggestions from participants.

In planning workshops for your institution, consider using representatives from various media: local daily newspapers, community and special interest newspapers, radio, and television. Goals from a community service/outreach-focused workshop at your institution might include developing a protocol for press inquiries, a notebook of newsclips on campus-community stories, and a system for alerting your public relations office to community outreach events.

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Sharing the Good News About Diversity

If you are interested in organizing a diversity media workshop on your campus, this free booklet is available from the Ford Foundation's Campus Diversity Initiative Public Information Project. Including possible workshop topics and sample exercises for participants, this guide includes practical advice on choosing participants, structuring workshops, and working with journalists.

Become more effective in communicating the benefits of your own campus' diversity initiatives.

Order your free copy of "Sharing the Good News About Diversity" by sending an e-mail message to prsol@clark.net.

Media Watch
News Clips


"Lately, ideas like affirmative action, multiculturalism, and feminism have begun to suffer the effects of backlash. The words 'politically correct' are often sneeringly applied to such concepts. But I am an old gal, and I remember what college campuses, and the rest of American life, looked like without them. I can think of no place where diversity has a greater potential for social gain than on a small, relatively self-contained college campus. . . Is it a perfect system? No, but I know of none better. And to call one's self well--or liberally--educated without having experienced such diversity is a farce. To have a widely diverse campus population then--students, faculty, staff, and administration--is not politically correct, it is merely truth in advertisement; the basis of a truly liberal education. And it is on such campuses, I believe, that the potential for much social growth and healing resides." Forty-nine year-old Beloit senior Mary C. Hughes extolling the virtues of diversity. ("The Class of '97," Beloit Magazine, Summer 1997).

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"If my university were to lose the lawsuit against affirmative action, some minority-group students would still enroll, but their numbers might drop. Fewer such students would mean more classes like my [all-white] afternoon section. And in the end, whites would be hurt. We should not overlook the tangible gains that come from having classes in which not everyone is the same color. For whites, those gains include being prompted to think from a perspective not one's own--a critical skill that needs to be learned during the college years.... Without minority-group students in my classroom, the possibility that I can foster consensus or even intelligent disagreement on these issues is greatly diminished--as is the possibility that the country can do the same." University of Michigan graduate student Heather C. Hill arguing that a diverse student body benefits all students. ("The Importance of a Minority Perspective in the Classroom," Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 November 1997).
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"I think it is still possible for us to have a reflective, civil pluralism where we are all able to hear each other's stories and tell our own stories, and tell them well. When we do that, I think we'll find some old stories and some new ones, some old philosophies and some new ones, some old religious stories and new ways of telling them to each other. . . The more criss-crossing patterns that we have, the more you get people in all sorts of different associations and causes, the more you're going to build the communal spirit." University of Chicago Professor Martin E. Meany stressing the need for more conversations across race and class lines in a speech at the University of Rhode Island. ("Diversity Important, But So is Unity, Says Religion Historian," Providence Journal-Bulletin, 16 October 1997).

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New York

"Both races seemed to agree on some core principles, among them that laws are still needed to protect racial minorities from discrimination, that racial diversity is an important aim, that special efforts and 'outreach programs' to help minorities advance are acceptable and even laudable, but that specific racial preferences often are not." Results from a recent New York Times/CBS News Poll on affirmative action. The poll also found that 43 percent of respondents said that affirmative action programs should be changed rather than done away with (25 percent) or left alone (24 percent). ("In Poll, Americans Reject Means But Not Ends of Racial Diversity," New York Times, 14 December 1997).

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"The whole learning enterprise is enriched by having diverse views, learning styles and intellectual starting points. . . When you consider all of the great thinkers throughout history'the French, German, Egyptian, Chinese, and so on, you'll see that in a sense, intellectual diversity in higher education is as American as the proverbial apple pie." Jack Daniel, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, University of Pittsburgh, emphasizing the importance of diversity to the college experience. ("Diversity Matters," Executive Report, November 1997).

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"Whether it is age, racism, national origin, religion, class, disability or sexual orientation, diversity stressed the basic notion that we are dependent on one another in achieving equality, social justice, human rights and the sanctity of each other's dignity. This is no small feat. But it is definitely worth the time and effort because, in the end, all students benefit from a more open and intellectual atmosphere. . . Racial and ethnic cultural organizations create a safe haven from discrimination. They provide a supportive community in which students may celebrate their heritage. Those same students are then able to reach out and share their experiences with white students who may be less likely to understand what discrimination feels like." Dr. Gladys Brown, Director of the Office of Human Relations Programs at the University of Maryland, responding to an article in the student newspaper claiming that racial and ethnic cultural organizations lead to increased segregation among students. ("Campus Diversity is a Benefit," The Diamondback, 27 October 1997).

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