OPINION: Diversity — We have work to do.

We need your help to diversify our newsroom – A letter to the public

Dear Wichita State, 

Diversity and inclusion efforts have become hot topics this year, and that’s a good thing. Organizations and businesses have ramped up efforts to hire a staff that represent the beautiful colors, religions, ethnicities, genders, and viewpoints of our society. I don’t know if any of us has an easy answer for making long-term structural changes to our systems — systems that for millennia have prioritized and praised the viewpoints of western, white, straight, cisgender Protestant and Catholic men. 

The fact is, as a society, we have work to do. Newsrooms have work to do.

We at The Sunflower have work to do too. We have had many discussions over my last three-plus years of working at the paper about diversifying our staff. With that in mind, I’m going the direct route by telling you right now, we want — and need — more diversity at The Sunflower. Plain and simple. 

We have done an excellent job of promoting women to high-level positions in our organization, and that’s good. Out of our eight employees in leadership roles, five of them are women, including our editor in chief. We believe this is worth celebrating because it goes against larger trends in news organizations that continue to pay women less than men. 

But in order to represent a campus of 17,000+ students effectively and efficiently, we need more students of different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, religions, and political affiliations. We need to make sure every voice is being heard. Every race, every gender, every sexuality.

We’ve talked about our desire to have a more diverse staff but have not gone far enough to make it happen. Like many organizations, we run ads every so often, saying that we’re hiring. Our application is available to all on our website. Still, we should do more to develop a more robust, nuanced, cultured, diverse staff.  

Part of our problem is because of turnover, like many university organizations. Every semester can bring new leadership, and every year we say goodbye to some fierce journalists as they move on from WSU. But those of us who have been around longer than a year have a responsibility to do more than state the obvious about the lack of diversity in our newsroom.

That’s why I am writing this now to all of you, and that’s where you come in. We need your help. We’re not asking for money or signatures. We’re asking for a different kind of investment. 

First, I am asking you to share this far and wide. We’re not looking to hide the situation, but to remedy it. 

Second, I am asking you to think hard about the most talented, driven and unique voices among Wichita State’s student population. When you have a few names, please forward this to them. Let them know why you think they would make a valuable addition to our student newspaper and encourage them to apply. 

Third, if you know of a student who takes this call to action seriously, don’t just share this with them but take that one crucial step and follow up with them in a week or two to remind them to submit their application

If you’re like me, you have a continually growing inbox and a to-do list that’s in the double-digits. That means things get put off, forgotten, or worse — I talk myself out of taking risks that could be great for me. When someone reminds me or checks in after a discussion, I am much more likely to follow through. 

Now I understand you didn’t ask for this job. Still, I suppose you care about our community, our staff, our campus, and the promise of diversity and inclusion. In that case, I hope you will join us in this effort. 

We’re not doing this by metrics or statistics. We’re not saying, “our campus population is 9% Asian, so our staff should be 9% Asian too.”

We are saying our campus has people from multiple countries on multiple continents. It represents various states and towns. It includes those who believe in many religions, who are LGBTQ, conservative and liberal, every race and ethnicity under the sun, and who come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. We want our staff to do their best to represent all of you, and we can’t do it alone.

If you know of a student, young or old, who has these gifts or wants to learn, please encourage them to throw their name in the hat. 

If you have any interest, skill, or experience with writing or reporting news, sports, arts and culture, or are into photography, video/audio production, graphic design, advertising, marketing or social media management, please consider this our personal invitation to join our staff. 

You should know we are an ambitious, dedicated, tenacious group. Our staff includes undergraduate and grad students. Many of us are in The Elliott School of Communication, liberal arts or fine arts. Still, we are looking to diversify this also. 

My hope is that by the time I move on from the graduate school in the summer of 2021 that our staff will look a little less like myself and that we will have covered some subjects that would not have made the news without us taking a little initiative and a lot of responsibility now for our organization.

Please help us do better. 


Audrey E. Korte,

Opinion Editor, The Sunflower