Medill celebrates its centennial with panel addressing major topics in journalism


Illustration by Delaney Nelson

A panel of media executives discussing the journalism industry celebrated the Medill School of Journalism’s Centennial.

Laura Simmons, Reporter

Leading media executives discussed objectivity, social media, the pandemic, diversity, equity and inclusion at a Thursday panel.

The virtual event, “Does the News Represent Us? The State of Journalism from Those Who Shape It,” celebrated the Medill School of Journalism’s Centennial. But it also featured some of the “brightest minds in the country” addressing the current climate of distrust in the news, according to Tim Franklin, senior associate dean of Medill.

“Whether we like it or not, people bring their individual experiences to journalism and if those experiences are largely white and largely privileged, then we’re missing an extraordinary segment of the population that needs to have its voices represented most of all,” said Emily Ramshaw (Medill ’03), co-founder and CEO of The 19th. 

The panel included Vox Media Publisher Melissa Bell (Medill ’06), ABC News President Kimberly Godwin, Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida and The Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Matt Murray (Medill ’87, ’88). Ramshaw moderated the event.

When choosing the panelists, Franklin said he and Medill Dean Charles Whitaker were intentional about highlighting a diversity of platforms and speakers while also representing Medill. 

The Medill Media Industry Survey, conducted by Medill Prof. Stephanie Edgerly, was created with the Medill Centennial panel in mind to foster an informed discussion, Franklin said. The survey touched on diversity, equity and inclusion and the effects of the pandemic on the industry. 

Ramshaw said she analyzed the survey results to prepare for the night. Ramshaw shared the survey results and used them to inform and drive the topics for the evening’s discussion. 

“The (survey) findings were encouraging,” Franklin said. “There’s clearly much more work to be done. But the survey did show that many news organizations have made changes when it comes to training, hiring practices and language. I think that’s a positive.” 

The panelists talked about their own newsrooms’ efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion. Bell said Vox Media, with funding from Google, is producing a publicly available style guide called “Language, Please” to provide starting points for diversity, equity and inclusion discussions and promote a more inclusive newsroom. 

As the first Black chief executive at ABC News, Godwin said she is proof that newsrooms are making progress. She said she asks her staff to bring their authentic selves to the newsroom. Godwin added she asked the Culture Council, a peer-selected group promoting change within ABC News, to form recommendations for how the network could be more inclusive. 

“(Diversity, equity and inclusion) really has to be a transparent process where people of an organization have to feel like they are empowered and part of the solution,” Godwin said.

The panel continued providing input on objectivity, conservative representation in newsrooms, social media, the results of the pandemic and advice to journalist students. 

Murray said to become a great journalist, students should use all the resources available to broaden their knowledge. 

“Medill considers itself a leader when it comes to journalism education and when it comes to raising major issues in the practice of journalism,” Franklin said. “That’s what we want to accomplish (with the event), to provide insights onto some of those major issues.” 

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Twitter: @LauraSi01351418

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