The Society of Professional Journalists at VCU on Wednesday hosted a forum on minorities in the media in the Student Commons.
The SPJ’s biannual diversity event featured guest speakers from news channel CBS 6 as well as a former VCU public relations professor. The event was based on African American’s and women’s presence in the mass communications industry.
SPJ president and senior print journalism major Amir Vera said he chose to put on this event because it is important for mass communication majors to understand the challenges they may face.
“I wanted people to learn that people may still be racist, or sexist, and in the media, and in communications, you are subject to a very critical public,” Vera said.
Two CBS 6 reporters, Stephanie Rochon and Sandra Jones described their personal experiences in their careers, as well as some difficulties minorities may face while trying to establish themselves in industry.
Rochon said as a prevalent face in the media, she has a responsibility to conduct herself in a way when she knows people are watching.
“You become a role model for people,” Rochon said. “I am representing people of my race and my gender, so I carry myself a certain way, especially since I am representing minorities.”
Although the majority of workers in the media are women, according to former public relations professor Judy Turk, Ph.D, leadership roles are often held by men, and tend to be less flexible with scheduling and workload.
“In the ‘80s, being in the media was considered a feminine field, and to some extent it still is today,” Turk said. Women get paid less for the same job and have to work 24/7. Being a woman in the media is a highly stressful occupation.”
All three panelists encouraged students to not only pursue careers in spotlight positions such as anchors or journalists, but also management positions.
“In order to better the status of women in the field and fix the underrepresentation of minorities in the media, you have to be in charge of the media,” Turk said.
Vera said he thinks the forum was beneficial to all students who attended.
“Raising awareness is the biggest thing,” Vera said. “VCU is all about diversity, but we aren’t really aware of the challenges of the people we see on TV and hear on the radio everyday.”