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Feature Story

Diversity In Newsrooms:
A Mayborn alumna’s perspective on diversity within UNT’s student body


      Compared to professional newsrooms, Mayborn’s diversity is statistically ahead. Nearly 63% of the college's undergraduates were women in the fall of 2019, said Stephanie Garza, director of advising. That same semester, people of color represented 55.8 percent of journalism underclassmen. (UNT

     The lack of diversity within journalism has become an ever growing conversation, one which invariably involves Mayborn’s young professionals. The percentage of white and male workers in newsrooms was higher than in that of the overall U.S. workforce, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey. Women comprised 41.7 percent and people of color 22.6 percent of the overall workforce in the responding newsrooms in the 2019 Women’s Media Center’s annual poll.


     Colorful, sharp photographs of beautiful places and storied people make Kara Dry’s professional Instagram account into an expansive mosaic. For years, Dry has documented not only her own life through the lens of a camera, but also sets out to feature as many diverse people and unknown stories as she can find. She tasks herself with showing her audience the varied and perhaps underrepresented stories right within their communities.

University of North Texas student Kelli Williams plays on the preaching of Jim Gilles. Kara Dry photographs this dueling demonstration on UNT’s campus between street preachers and those opposing their message.

does not currently poll the population of LGBT+ identified students.) What impact - if any - has this wide variety of people had on students once they begin working in professional newsrooms?

    Kara Dry graduated from Mayborn with a degree in photojournalism in May 2020, spending her senior year as president of UNT’s National Press Photographers Association chapter. She currently works as a photo intern for the Watertown Daily Times in New York and as a remote contributor for The Dallas Morning News. Prior to her graduation, Dry spent her days in the newsrooms of the Denton Record Chronicle and UNT’s student-run newspaper, the North Texas Daily. 

    Dry says while diversity is increasing inside newsrooms, they still don’t tend to reflect the communities they’re in. That lack of representation means stories about marginalized communities are not necessarily a priority. She adds that the Daily was really good practice for seeing and accurately representing diverse perspectives within reporting. While working as an editor for the NT Daily, Dry found herself constantly examining photographs for diversity.

     "Am I perpetuating stereotypes? Am I representing this group of people accurately? Am I shortchanging them?" she questions. "I was constantly trying to check myself, in addition to asking for others' opinions in the newsroom."

     But Dry’s experiences can only provide so much insight about the current state of newsrooms for minorities.

     Jasmine C. Johnson is currently a communications specialist at Texas A&M University after earning a Masters of Arts in journalism at UNT in May 2020. She was “pleasantly surprised” to be enrolled alongside other Black women in Mayborn’s graduate program, adding that the college gave her more of an opportunity to work with Black people.

     "I’ve taken advantage of [working with other Black people] and been able to really tap into subjects that interest me,” Johnson says. “My final project in a broadcasting class, our group did a 30-minute talk show on all things Black culture...I’m grateful that UNT has created an environment where we felt comfortable enough to do that.”

     However there is only one Black professor in Mayborn with a Ph.D, which Johnson says is problematic for graduate students like herself when choosing a thesis chair. She hopes to see more diverse UNT faculty in the future. 


Kai Perry dresses her daughter Sol, who is diagnosed with Autism, for school. Kara Dry captures this intimate moment for her photo essay following the life of this single mother.

     Dry hopes in the future that Mayborn will make the Race, Gender and Media elective a required course for all journalism students. The class teaches aspiring journalists to be conscious of inclusivity, and she says it truly made her understand the importance of media representation.

     “That class really kind of put the spotlight on the responsibility of [respecting people’s identities] that I specifically have as a journalist to get it right, especially as a photographer,” she says. “I’m showing people’s faces out there, I’m shedding light on people, and people believe what they see. And when they see my photos...That’s a big responsibility and I don’t take that lightly.”

     Dry’s eyes were opened to the hardships minorities can experience and the ways reporters of the past have failed to accurately document these struggles. She became dedicated to make a positive difference with her own stories. 

“I might not look like you or be like you,
but I have the tools and I can be here and
I can listen to you and I can share your story,”
Dry says with a determined nod.

   The opportunity for journalism students to hear from people from all walks of life and learn how to appropriately share their stories in their future professions is an extremely important endeavor for Mayborn to continue making. Particularly, Johnson says, because journalists “are the gatekeepers of truth.” 

     She points out that everyone has unique biases that shape the content that is written, photographed and shared. This framing bias may not necessarily be a problem, however, as long as each of those biases are represented in the newsroom. Dry reiterates that the important thing is teaching every future journalist to value accurate representation and be aware of their own biases and privileges.  

     “Making the field more inclusive will make journalism more transparent, honest, and more reflective of our very diverse world,” Johnson says. “It’ll benefit everyone… Diversity will always be a necessary conversation, in every field.”


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