The Montana Race project fits within the ethical obligations journalists have to pursue diversity in reporting by reaching out to people and gathering their personal perspective. Personal experience, witness accounts, or by other means. Through this project, we discovered the ways of looking at race in the Montana varied as we gathered all those voices that would otherwise go unheard. We were able to get their stories and put them on display for those willing to look at them. The project succeeded in fulfilling the ethical obligation of journalists by the audience who participated.
One of my favorite six-word essays that we received was from a 25-year-old female from Bozeman that read, “What are you? I’m a person.” The reason why I liked it more than others was how it related to my own personal essay “Empathy is deeper than skin color.”
When learning about covering race in reporting, I have learned that skin color is a minute factor in what makes us humans. Dr. Sylvia Spangler, a geneticist at U.C. Berkeley, once said, “Race is something that we do to each other.” The essay from the Bozeman woman really struck that chord on what I have learned about covering diverse issues in the media pertaining to race.
Growing up, I had a half-Hispanic cousin named Scott live next door to me for roughly five years and not once did I ever view him as being something different. He is family. I have friends from different backgrounds (socio economic, ethnic, etc.) but those factors do not make who a person truly is. The content of ones’ character is profoundly more important than what color of skin they possess.
What I learned the most from the people who participated in the Montana Race Project was how diverse Montana is on their viewpoints of what race means to them. It gave me a better idea of how other people see the state when 90 percent of Montana is white and around six percent, are Native Americans. I was surprised by how many participated and there were overlaps on what people felt from different parts of the state.
Many people came to the Montana Race Projects booth during my shift during the DiverseU symposium. Our exhibit sharing six word stories resonated the most with the live audience. Some of the most profound essays our class, Diversity in Media, found were scattered throughout a silhouette of the state of Montana in each of the shade of the rainbow.
Many who I talked to said that they thought it was a very unique topic and way to initiate conversation and opinions.
Journalism 201, “Diversity in Media” has opened my eyes to the ways in which journalists can ethically report on race. Mitigating bias, inclusion and covering the uncovered are the most important elements of ethically developing a story. By letting go of personal biases and telling the story fairly, accurately and to the point, journalists can challenge stereotypes and tell them effectively. Our class wanted to share voices who often are unheard, and we got quite the untold message.
-Mason Birgenheier, who participated in “The Montana Race Project: Everyone Has a Story” for DiverseU 2015. The project is led by faculty advisor, Kathy Weber-Bates who teaches Diversity in Media in the UM School of Journalism.