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New Maynard Director: Newsroom Diversity Requires Effort

by Emil Guillermo /

The newly appointed head of the Maynard Institute, one of the leading advocates of diversity in news, said digital media will drive its new initiatives.

The Maynard Institute was founded in 1977 by a group of nine journalists, voicing their need to make newsrooms that "look like America." It stands as the national's oldest organization dedicated to this work. Evelyn Hsu, who was promoted to the executive director position last month, said the work that began with a print and broadcast focus will continue to advocate for inclusion in journalism’s evolving landscape.

“Our focus is digital,” Hsu told NBC News. “I always found it ironic that digital organizations, who could count your every keystroke, could not, or would not, produce their staff diversity numbers. At least there's a greater acknowledgement now that diversity is an issue and that it takes effort, not simply a good heart or good intentions, to make change. Our challenge continues. We persist in our efforts to help media reflect this country's diversity, in both staffing and content.”

"We persist in our efforts to help media reflect this country's diversity, in both staffing and content.”

Hsu was a graduate of the Maynard Institute's Summer Program for Minority Journalists early in her career when she entered the profession in the ‘80s as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, and later at the Washington Post.

But her concern for improving the climate for minority journalists took hold when she served as national president of the Asian American Journalists Association.

“There was progress, albeit slow progress,” Hsu said of diversity efforts of the past, which were hampered when media organizations fought for their very survival. “The recent economic downturn hurt, as news organizations focused exclusively on the bottom line."

Hsu's transition into leadership follows the recent death of Dori Maynard, who led the Maynard Institute since 2001, and comes at a time of transition in the media industry as digital takes precedence and a focus on diversity has become key. In July, the Los Angeles Times hired a reporter to cover Black Twitter. That same month, the Columbia Journalism Review published an analysis of newsroom diversity that focused on the disparities in the industry.

“We've just started a strategic planning process that we hope will position the institute to go forward in the best way in this time and media environment,” Hsu said. “New initiatives will spring from that effort. In six months, we'll have a good sense of where we want to go with our programs and serving the media and the MIJE family.”

In the meantime, the Maynard Institute continues with training sessions around the country that includes helping journalists to access diverse sources and their communities, as well as helping those communities interact with mainstream journalists.

It’s a new chapter for the institute, one that Hsu feels grateful to be called on to lead.

“I miss Dori every day as both a boss and a good friend,” Hsu said. “It's a great honor to be following in her footsteps and to work to continue her legacy.”