Bridging Identities in the Newsroom
By: Caitlin Rodriguez
Media representation is one of the main ways people gain exposure to cultures and identities that are not their own, therefore heightening the importance of journalists remaining accurate storytellers in a world filled with diverse narratives.
Austin-American Statesman columnist Michael Barnes, along with Texas State journalism student and University Star writer, Ernest Macias, tackled the intricacies that come with belonging to marginalized identity groups while simultaneously being reporters.
Barnes, with his 20 years of journalism experience, said that he’s seen the climate shift from when he started in journalism in the 80s when the AIDS epidemic was seen as an “existential threat to the community.”
By the 90s he was able to be freely out in the newsroom and didn’t face much discrimination.
Attending the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association Conference this past August really helped Macias feel comfortable bridging his multiple identities.
“Being in that environment opened my eyes to the fact that I can merge being gay and being a journalist,” Macias said.
Learning to incorporate his Hispanic identity is something Macias is still figuring out.
“Individuals come from all different backgrounds and it is about understanding how to incorporate them all and understanding that I can’t leave any of them out,” he said.
Barnes spoke about an assignment he received at the Statesman to cover the Hispanic community of Austin.
“Doing that would be impossible,” Barnes said.
So he reached out to insightful Hispanics he knew and soon ended up with 50 personal accounts that Barnes turned into a special digital project that highlighted each individual and their responses.
Barnes said that he received many thank-you’s from participants who were appreciative that he allowed them to tell their own story instead of telling it for them.
As a writer for the University Star, Macias doesn’t just write stories that highlight the LGBTQ community and is trying to find a balance between the two.
Macias said that he is working on creating connections with groups on campus so as to become more educated on a range of LGBTQ topics.
“Once I feel more confident on all kinds of different issues, I’ll tackle more in depth stories,” he said.
Both Barnes and Macias expressed their recognition that the media climate we live in is becoming more accepting of LGBTQ individuals, with network shows across platforms having queer characters.
They both agree however that some representations are still exaggerated and don’t accurately portray the lives of queer people.
“If you don’t let people tell their own story, it will get distorted,” Barnes said.
Psychology sophomore, Tylar Cowart, said that he was glad about the amount of education that both speakers were giving.
“Feeling pretty educated on these issues myself,” Cowart said, “I was glad to see that a larger audience was able to receive the same information.”
Odus Evbagharu, Mass Communication Senior and Managing Editor of the University Star, said that it has to be minorities speaking out about minority issues.
“I’m glad that people are speaking out, and with 15 to 20 people on the Star staff identifying as LGBTQ we’re achieving better representation,” he said
Caitlin Rodriguez is a journalism junior at Texas State University. She writes weekly articles for URGE that you can find here.