Virginia Paper Warns of White ‘Privileges’ and ‘Blind Spots’ in Reporting

• January 22, 2021 11:30 am


Reporters at a Norfolk, Va., newspaper warned Thursday of their white "privileges" and "blind spots" in a newly launched series on the city's "racial divisions."

In a tweet announcing its "Dividing Lines" project, the Virginian-Pilot stated, "For full disclosure, the people behind this reporting are white and benefit from numerous privileges that the disadvantaged populations highlighted in this project do not, ‘So we have blind spots.'"

The disclosure showcases the growing trend among newsrooms to put a discussion of their own racial representation at the forefront of reporting.

In a similar move, the New York Times Guild said in a memo last summer that the paper would move toward mirroring the city's exact racial demographics in its newsroom. The guild claimed its concern with viewpoint diversity began a month before, with an op-ed written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) that black staff members said put them "in danger."

"Our workforce should reflect our home: The Times should set a goal to have its workforce demographics reflect the makeup of New York City—24% Black and over 50% people of color—by 2025," the guild said in a tweet highlighting its memo's recommendations.

The Virginian-Pilot reporters detailed their "blind spots" in an article published alongside their new series.

"We're white," the reporters begin. They go on to state that they and their editor "grew up in white, suburban areas," "went through school with classmates who looked like us," and now "live in largely white neighborhoods and socialize in largely white spheres."

The writers then criticize their paper's "spotty-at-best history of covering the Black communities of Hampton Roads" and say their current newsroom does not properly reflect the racial demographics it covers.

"We work for a company that, by its own admission, is not diverse enough," they write. "We have seven Black journalists out of a staff of 71 — not quite 10% — covering a region whose major cities range from 20% to 55% Black."

For the project, the reporters are consulting a Christopher Newport University professor, who they have also disclosed is white.

The Virginian-Pilot did not respond to a request for comment.

Published under: Anti-Racism, Media