Could More Newsroom Diversity Help Coverage of the Michael Brown Killing?

A deputy managing editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that African-American reporters might have “better ideas on following up” with the shooting and its aftermath.  

Demonstrators in Clayton, Mo., protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown, Aug. 12, 2014.
Demonstrators in Clayton, Mo., protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown, Aug. 12, 2014. Scott Olsen/Getty Images

St. Louis Teen’s Killing Raises Newsroom Diversity Issue

Editor Says Inclusion Could Increase Community Contacts

The fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man in a St. Louis suburb, followed by looting and burning by angry protesters, led to a national social media campaign protesting the media images of black men, a quickly published editorial by the city’s black newspaper and an acknowledgement by an editor at the city’s major daily that more diversity on the staff could help the paper cover what he called a “huge story.”

“We’re pretty much doing blanket coverage. The biggest difficulty for us is trying to cover the investigation itself and the bigger issues out there and what it means and the violence,” Adam Goodman, a deputy managing editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told Journal-isms by telephone. The looting and the police response to anger at the killing of Michael Brown, put the paper to the test. They happened between editions on Sunday, he said.

“For us,” Goodman added, “the next thing is to try to get to the bottom of exactly what happened” to cause Brown’s death. Police and a friend who accompanied Brown have offered conflicting accounts.

The Post-Dispatch has deployed 12 to 15 reporters, plus at least an additional half-dozen photographers and videographers on the story, Goodman said.

Readers have at least 16 or 17 “different entry points” to it, he said, and the front page for Tuesday, as the one Monday, is to be completely be given over to the story of Brown’s killing and its aftermath, save for some referrals to stories inside.

Goodman said two of the reporters are black journalists: Denise Hollinshed, who was covering police on Saturday night, when the shooting occurred, and Koran Addo, who normally covers higher education. According to the annual diversity census by the American Society of News Editors, the Post-Dispatch newsroom is 7.1 percent black, while U.S. Census figures put the city of St. Louis at 49.29 percent black and St. Louis County at 23.7 percent black.

Two white journalists, reporter Steve Giegerich and photographer David Carson, were assaulted by a predominantly black crowd, Carson as he was photographing looters.

Goodman is supervising the newsroom while top editor Gilbert Bailon is away, driving back from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in San Antonio.