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Turning the Tables: Diversity in the New Media Age

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Charles Whitaker, professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism believes the magazine publishing industry still only plays lip service when dealing with the lack of diversity within the profession.

Despite years of knocking on the doors of major US publishing houses, Whittaker, an adviser on issues of diversity to the Magazine Publishers of America, believes the root of the problem lies in the lack of multiculturalism behind the scenes in the magazine publishing world.  He says, “It’s an old world where most of the people who work at the big magazines in New York come from Ivy League institutions which themselves are not traditionally that diverse." It is 2011and the magazine industry still lacks the full spectrum of real diversity and culture.

Whittaker’s message is that diversity requires the mainstream media and minorities to really work at it and think about what is to be expected.” Creating a shared media that authentically represents the richness and diversity of America, means that we will be invested in generating avenues for underrepresented and unrepresented voices to be heard, and as minorities we may just be standing on the cusp of a media revolution that will do just that.

New Media forms have taken epic flight within the last decade with Facebook, Twitter, blogging, online publications and websites. Today, anyone with access to the internet can bypass the approving nod of the big boys of the New York publishing houses and become authors, experts and media sensations.

Now fashion bloggers, many of them of color, line the front rows of Fashion Week, like the young author, Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast walks couture runways and models for campaigns like Ralph Lauren.  Within the span of five days, YouTube Iman Crosson’s, video: President Obama on Death of Osama bin Laden was featured on CBS receiving 2,300,000 plus views and his studio was his own living room.  One of the new faces of Lancôme on YouTube is Vietnamese-American Michelle Phan, a makeup artist who started creating make-up how-to is during her college years.

This new media avenue of expression empowers minority voices traditionally ignored by mainstream media.  Since the tech age requires nothing more than a media connection and access to a camera or video, we no longer need access to the vast amounts of wealth historically domineered by white America, or the status of being an established institution in order to present our perspectives, and our faces, to the world.

Whitaker tells us that the term ‘minority’ will not mean anything in the years to come.  “America will be a majority-minority country.”  As population demographics shift, it is increasing important to utilize digital media forms to reflect diverse voices and offer an opportunity to create a shared pool of cultural understanding.  This new era in media publishing gives minorities whose identity and image have traditionally been created for us the chance to accurately portray ourselves and move past narrow stereotypes and into a world that rewards talent, rather than upholding the status quo.

 


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