Behind the Story: Dustin Volz on Sitting with Journalism’s Diversity Problem

By Dustin Volz

Toward the end of our second day exploring Auschwitz, I found myself alone amid a row of barracks, unsure where the rest of the group had wandered. Closing time at the memorial was near.

The dirt path was empty of other visitors, and the setting sun cast a deep shadow on the living memorials from Turkey and Switzerland and Israel that stood around me. In this physical emptiness, I began considering my identity, which, as a blond, blue-eyed American with a preponderance of German heritage in my blood, was genetically more linked to the perpetrators of the Holocaust than to its six million victims.

It was hard not to feel like an interloper. It was hard to think I could possibly have anything of value to say about Auschwitz.

Feeling as though I lacked sufficient understanding to write about Auschwitz because of my distance from it prompted me to consider the unseen effects of the dearth of diversity in media. How often does the media, largely filled with white, male journalists, fail to adequately empathize with its subjects? And what, if anything, can I do to in my own reporting to achieve appropriate perspective?

These questions are not easily answered, but they are deserving of deep, introspective consideration from every journalist.

My day job as a reporter in Washington, D.C., seldom gives me the opportunity to take a breath and think about the Big Questions of journalism. FASPE allowed me to step away from the race and consider the day-to-day realities of my newsroom and the journalism industry writ large.

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