Elite Journalism Likes to Honor Veterans But Not Hire Them

Maybe a Few Former Marines Could Help the Press See More Clearly

Posted on November 20, 2016

Andrew McGill of the Atlantic has some suggestions on Fixing America’s Nearsighted Press Corps:

Of all the parties with egg on their faces after Donald Trump’s surprise election—Democrats, pollsters, political bettors—my colleagues in the media felt especially yolky….

In the aftermath, many of the immediate post-mortems blamed a coastal bubble: Too many journalists had grown nearsighted in urban Democratic enclaves, the reasoning went, blinding them to what was taking place in Middle America. If more reporters actually spent time in fly-over country, instead of jetting through for a rally, they’d understand why Donald Trump won voters over. And if national newsrooms prioritized hiring folks who didn’t graduate from elite journalism programs—and maybe didn’t graduate from college at all—well, that wouldn’t hurt, either….

Media organizations have struggled for a long time with a habit of hiring identical people. More than 80 percent of newsroom employees are white, according to a recent survey. That makes the calls to increase representation of disaffected white Americans sound a bit tone-deaf. “There’s not enough diversity in terms of other minority groups,” said Dori Zinn, the chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ diversity committee….

Then again, efforts to increase diversity don’t have to move along just one axis. Prioritizing a diversity of experience could mean hiring more people of color. It could also meaning hiring reporters with disabilities, or people with associate degrees from community colleges. All of these perspectives would enrich coverage….

The fix to the nation’s nearsightedness—and there’s a long, hard climb ahead—could start with a closer look at ourselves.

How about adding those who have served in the military to that list of the kind of people who could help with the nearsightedness in today’s journalism? In 50 years in Washington journalism I found military veterans increasingly the most underrepresented group of all.

I attended three Gridiron dinners, an annual event that brings together the media and political elite at the Washington Hilton. At the white-tie dinner a military band plays the anthem of each service and those serving or have served in that branch of the military stand when their anthem is played. Each year fewer and fewer of those at the dinner stand—the most recent estimate I got was some 30 of the 650 people at the Gridiron dinner now stand. More than 95 percent of those attending stay seated.

Why should the press hire more veterans as opposed to searching for more people who didn’t go to college? I think most veterans would say that those first months of basic training were one of the most miserable and valuable learning experiences of their lives. You go through a kind of hell with all kinds of people from all over the country. You stand at attention with them, march with them, learn to shoot with them, drink with them, you’re in bunk beds next to them. You find out that there are a lot of people a lot different from you but that’s okay. We’ll still have each other’s backs, we’ll still fight together and defend the country together if we have to.

Maybe a few more former Marines and other military veterans could help those graduates of elite colleges at the Atlantic—and the Washington Post and New York Times— see more clearly.



    Does anyone know how, why, in what quantities and what manner does the United States military school and train journalists, and where they are hired outside the military?

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