A Review of The Hilltop Monitor’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Goals

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In June of 2020 – after the murder of George Floyd and related protests against police brutality – The Hilltop Monitor editorial staff published an editorial piece affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusivity and setting out a number of goals that we wished to achieve in the 2020-2021 academic year. As we prepare for the spring semester, we would like to publicize the extent to which we met these goals over the course of the fall semester (FA20). By evaluating where we have fallen short and where we have succeeded, we can better situate our operations to maximally reach the goals we have laid out and, more importantly, become a more diverse and inclusive newspaper.

Nine total goals were laid out in the June editorial, with primary focuses on reporting, recruitment and outreach. Each goal will be separately evaluated according to the extent to which the goal was met. A plan for reaching the goal in the spring semester will also be included.

Undertake journalistic investigations into instances of racism and discrimination within the Jewell community, publishing a minimum of two to three full investigative pieces per semester.

Goal status: Unmet for FA20.

One investigative piece was published in the fall semester analyzing Jewell’s annual diversity report.

Plan for the future: To achieve this goal in the spring semester, a renewed focus has been placed on publishing specifically investigative and in-depth stories. Each editorial staff member will author or co-author a long-form investigative or in-depth piece. Furthermore, investigations will be pitched at each weekly all-staff meeting and general staff members can elect to join an investigative team with an editorial staff member mentor or begin an investigation on their own. By doing so, we hope to both compensate for our subpar investigative turnout last semester and train underclassmen in journalistic investigative practices so that the Monitor can better fulfill its watchdog function in future years as well.

Provide more accessible avenues by which all members of our community can bring to our attention leads, tips and story ideas relating to diversity and inclusivity in order to expand our coverage, including but not limited to a Google form accessible on all of our social media.

Goal status: Met for FA20. More work to be done.

An anonymous Google submission form was created, and a link to this form is posted below every article posted on our Facebook page. Furthermore, a link to this suggestion box was periodically advertised using the story feature on our Instagram. In addition, we created a “Contact Us” section on our website, which lists our organizational email and a link to the anonymous suggestion box.

Plan for the future: Though we have publicized the link to this form on our social media platforms and in the “Contact Us” section of our website, we have received only three responses, indicating that we should do more to publicize this avenue of communication. To address this, we will put up posters around the school – upon approval from Student Life – which include a QR code linking directly to the suggestion form. We will also increase the frequency with which we advertise the suggestion box on our Instagram account, with the goal of posting a link to the suggestion box each week.

Place an increased focus on reporting on racial disparities as they present themselves within Liberty, the Kansas City metro and the U.S., by publishing at minimum five of these news pieces per semester and designating a beat specifically concerning these issues, so that staff members are always ready to cover these issues the moment they present themselves.

Goal status: Unmet for FA20.

Two out of our goal of five news pieces directly concerning issues of racial disparities were published in the fall semester. This constitutes the greatest failure of the nine goals we set out for the fall semester. As we enter the new semester, reaching this goal will be among our greatest priorities.

Plan for the future: We have added three special auxiliary positions to our editorial staff. Two of these special positions are beat reporter roles – one specifically dedicated to reporting on issues regarding diversity and inclusivity and one dedicated to covering political issues. With the addition of these two roles, we can more effectively ensure that the Monitor is reporting on issues both within our community and beyond.

One of the primary reasons this goal was not met was that while stories with the focus of local race issues were pitched and even taken, many of these never made it to publication due to the common occurrences of writers overloading their schedules and having to drop a story or no one taking the assignment. In order to avoid these problems in the future, starting this semester, the editorial staff will ensure that we both pitch these stories to writers and that they make it to publication. At editorial staff meetings, we will periodically check through our published articles to make sure we are on track.

Incorporate themes of advocacy, inclusion and dignity into articles on all pages, not just Features and News, including but not limited to publishing more artist and sports features on BIPOC and more reviews of art/work/content created by BIPOC.

Goal status: Partially met for FA20. More work to be done.

A number of articles in our Arts & Culture, Lifestyle and Sports sections included features on BIPOC cultures and individuals. On the Arts & Culture page, five articles were published pertaining directly to BIPOC individuals and culture. One of three total sports features pertained to a BIPOC athlete. Two articles on the Lifestyle page featured BIPOC individuals and cultural elements.

Plan for the future: Just as was the case for our Perspectives section, it is important that we as an editorial staff not only to continue to pitch stories that highlight and celebrate works made by BIPOC and elements of BIPOC cultures but also ensure that these articles are seen through to publication. Particularly, the Sports and Multimedia page could include more representation of BIPOC individuals. More emphasis will be put on covering BIPOC individuals and their work and the editorial staff will ensure that this goal is being met by periodically (at least monthly) checking through our published articles to make sure we are on track.

Recruit more BIPOC staff members by reaching out to organizations like BSA, Mi Gente, INSA – not only asking them to join our staff but also asking them if there are ways we can make our reporting more inclusive.

Goal status: Unmet for FA20.

The Hilltop Monitor hosted a recruitment table in the Union at the start of FA20 from which we recruited a good portion of our current editorial staff. Furthermore, emails were sent to the cabinets of BSA, Mi Gente, and RepresentAsian extending an invitation to join staff. Still, the makeup of The Hilltop Monitor staff is overwhelmingly white.

Plan for the future: Though we extended invitations to join our staff, we can do better in the new semester by both publicizing that our staff is open to new members and putting in more effort to open the invitation to BIPOC students by establishing more direct communication with campus multicultural organizations. 

Use our platform to highlight and amplify BIPOC voices, including, but not limited to, regularly commissioning opinion pieces and letters to the editor from BIPOC, seeking out interviews from more BIPOC and featuring more BIPOC-led initiatives in our news reporting.

Goal status: Unmet for FA20.

No letters to the editor were submitted for FA20. Included emails to each multicultural organization were invitations to write letters to the editor.

Plan for the future: One component of better reaching this goal in the future is to make the letter to the editor option more accessible by publicizing the opportunity on our social media and across campus. Furthermore, our editorial staff will make a more intentional effort to reach out to individuals not on staff who have expressed opinions and offer them the opportunity of writing a letter to the editor.

Establish direct lines of communication with the leadership of campus multicultural organizations in order to increase coverage on them, especially those representing BIPOC, including publishing dedicated features explaining the missions of each of these organizations as well as publishing content throughout the year reporting these organizations’ initiatives.

Goal status: Partially met for FA20. More work to be done.

Dedicated features of Mi Gente, BSA and RepresentAsian were commissioned and published on our Features page. Emails were sent to the cabinets of each multicultural organization establishing our interest in forming a relationship and extending an invitation to meet to discuss how the Monitor could support the mission of each of these organizations and publicize club initiatives.

Plan for the future: We will reconnect with the cabinets of multicultural organizations at the start of this semester and put more emphasis on forming durable and direct relationships, through which these clubs can report news they would like us to publicize.

Carefully question and probe the validity of data and statistics from law enforcement agencies for misrepresentative or racially biased information.

Goal status: Met for FA20. More work to be done.

On the editorial level, probing sources, data and statistics for misrepresentative or biased information has become a cornerstone of the review process. With four total checks in the review process, page editors, the chief copy editor, the chief editor and our faculty advisor review every single piece we publish. As well, during each review our editorial staff members and faculty advisor check specifically for objectivity and verifiability of sources. Furthermore, by mandating that writers cite all sources used in their articles, we can better identify whether the article was informed with some biased information.

Plan for the future: We would like to involve our staff writers into the process so that any misrepresentative or biased information can be avoided at the earliest possible stage of the research process. In order to do so, we will consistently remind our staff at our weekly all-staff meetings to cite every source they use in their research and to verify the trustworthiness of sources before they incorporate them in articles. To reinforce and inform these practices, we will host a workshop outlining.

Explicitly ask cabinets and senators running for Student Senate both at the annual Senate debates and within interviews how they intend to oppose racism and promote diversity and inclusivity on campus, particularly with regards to recruitment and retention, enrollment, housing and representation on campus.

Goal status: Met for FA20. More work to be done. 

Though typically occurring in April, due to COVID-19, the Student Senate election for the 2020-21 cabinet took place in September, hosted by The Hilltop Monitor. Each of the two cabinets running for election were asked what their plans were for increasing diversity and inclusivity on Jewell’s campus, and each cabinet was given a minute to respond. 

Plan for the future: Though both cabinets were asked about their plans for improving diversity and inclusivity, this goal could be better supported in the future by writing dedicated articles about cabinets’ objectives. Furthermore, a follow-up article will be published this semester specifically covering the extent to which the elected cabinet achieved their policy proposals and kept campaign promises, with a particular focus on diversity and inclusivity initiatives. 

In the new semester, The Hilltop Monitor editorial staff hopes to do better in reaching the goals. This pursuit is not an effort to simply check items off a list or maintain an appearance of trustworthiness. Rather, these goals are critical to fulfilling the core functions of a representative and inclusive newspaper.

As always, The Hilltop Monitor encourages feedback from our readership. If you have any constructive criticism, suggestions for how we can better reach our goals or any questions, please contact us at monitor@william.jewell.edu. You can also send anonymous suggestions at this link.

Christina Kirk

Christina Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief of The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: Institutions & Policy and international relations.

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