Diversity Board announcement

Media organizations across the country had a reckoning on race this summer. 

Following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others, the summer of 2020 was filled with protests. Americans were forced to examine the prevalence of racism in our everyday lives. For newsrooms, this meant re-examining how we cover Black communities, along with other underrepresented groups.

The Daily Nebraskan is no exception to newsrooms that need to take this necessary step. In April, before racial injustice was at the forefront of national news, we published an online magazine covering diversity on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus. 

While it was a step in the right direction, there’s still more work to do. In June, we published an editorial communicating our support of the Black community and responding to criticism of our protest coverage.

Now, we’re taking another step. Once again, we won’t be putting out a physical magazine. Instead, we’ll publish an online project focused on Black Lives Matter and Black stories on campus, both now and historically. I, Drake Keeler, will be leading this project, which will feature multiple sections. 

The first part of the project is this one right here, talking about our own newsroom diversity. The second will focus on the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement, history of anti-Black racism at UNL and stories of Black trailblazers. Lastly, we will look at the current movements happening on campus and aim to capture what the Black experience is like for UNL students now. 

But diversity and racism aren’t things to only cover in a special magazine or project. We should constantly be covering and addressing these things in our newsroom.

The reason we’re doing this now is not because it’s a hot topic that would attract readers. The point of this project is to put a spotlight on Black stories that haven’t been told enough or at all. This is meant to set in place a precedent to tell the stories of all people for years to come.

Before we do that, however, we must look at our own failures. As you look at the first edition of our annual newsroom diversity report, you’ll see that I’m the only Black person on The Daily Nebraskan’s staff. Yes, this means that almost none of the contributors to this project will be Black. While I made the choice to lead this project, and it was never something forced on me, it’s also clear that there weren’t a whole lot of diverse options. 

I joined The Daily Nebraskan my freshman year in October of 2018. In the two years since, the lack of diversity — racial and otherwise — has been glaring. Reporting our diversity statistics annually will help us and the UNL community hold The Daily Nebraskan accountable. 

Journalism as an industry has a diversity problem, and Nebraska is included in this. As Nebraska media outlets, we can send feel-good messages about how we support diversity, or we can put the work in to make structural change.

Along with telling the stories of all students on campus, The Daily Nebraskan has a responsibility to prepare young journalists for their future careers. We aren’t meeting this standard to the fullest if we aren’t creating an environment where all aspiring journalists and writers can come in and feel accepted for years to come. 

That’s why, as part of this project, we will be launching The Daily Nebraskan Diversity and Inclusion Board. This board will include voices from both inside and outside The Daily Nebraskan, and it will have the purpose of fostering more inclusive coverage and a more diverse newsroom. 

Making concerted efforts to be inclusive will create a larger pool of qualified, diverse journalists that can help make the Nebraska media market better. Of course, other publications across the state also need to do their part to make that work. 

As the founder of the board, I will take on the privilege of becoming its first internal chair. On Wednesday, Oct. 7, applications will open to fill the board with an external chair and other members.

Having an external chair and board members from outside of The Daily Nebraskan will be crucial to the success of the board. While internal members will not be afraid to give criticism, we can’t always analyze our own work as objectively as those outside of our organization. I’m looking forward to building this team and working to make change with Nebraska students who are just as passionate about diversity and inclusion. 

When complete, this board will focus on improving The Daily Nebraskan’s recruitment practices, making sure its coverage is inclusive and hearing from community voices. 

Expanding on that last point, we’re looking to get UNL’s underrepresented communities involved in the creation of this project, even if you aren’t a part of The Daily Nebraskan. If you have any story ideas, questions, comments or concerns, you can make a submission to our Curious Cornhuskers initiative or email me at drakekeeler@dailynebraskan.com. In the near future, we’ll be creating even more opportunities for community feedback.

I’d like to reiterate that this is not just a semester project by a student newspaper. This is the start of a structural effort to make long-term change for the better in the media landscape.

Here’s to a more inclusive future,

Drake Keeler