Doris Truong is director of training and diversity at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. Prior to taking that job earlier this year, Truong worked in various roles at The Washington Post, including homepage editor, and as a copy editor at The Dallas Morning News. She is also a past president of the Asian American Journalists Association. In this interview, conducted by email, Truong discusses her new role at Poynter and offers advice to student journalists.
Q. Describe your job at Poynter. What is your typical day like?
A. I just started my role as director of training and diversity in August, so there hasn’t been enough time to establish a routine. I can already tell that most days will be marked by the lack of routine: I might be preparing to teach (or teaching), writing a piece for Poynter.org, taking meetings with stakeholders or planning months ahead on Poynter’s curriculum.
However, it’s a much more manageable day — in terms of pace and stress level — than being in a 24/7 newsroom. I do miss The Washington Post, especially on Election Day and during breaking news. But I don’t miss receiving dozens of push alerts from multiple news apps each day just to be sure there’s not a major story reported elsewhere that deserves a spot on the homepage.
Q. What are some shortcomings you see in news organizations regarding diversity and inclusion? Success stories?
A. Newsrooms don’t become more diverse and inclusive overnight. It’s a moral and financial imperative — and newsroom leaders need to make hires that mirror their diverse audience to be able to accurately represent those stories.
Many newsrooms fall into a trap of thinking that diversity is a binary issue, but it’s not able just looking at races of people on staff. It’s also a matter of someone’s life experience, which broadly includes socioeconomics, religion, age, family status, sexual orientation, military background, languages spoken and even the places where they have lived (urban vs. rural, domestic vs. international, coastal vs. landlocked). The news audience isn’t easily defined, so neither should the staff be.
One of the success stories is Chicago’s City Bureau, which takes diversity, equity and inclusion seriously in its hiring practices and employment policies. You can see the difference in the coverage City Bureau produces. Part of the success is because diversity and inclusion were baked into City Bureau since its founding in 2015. Legacy media have generations of old habits to overcome.
Q. You previously worked as a copy editor and homepage editor. How do you use those skills in your current position?
A. The skills of a good copy editor are always in demand. I help with taking a final look at marketing materials and grant proposals.
My homepage skills have been handy because Poynter.org is in the middle of a slight redesign as we switch software on the back end. For the site visitor, we hope the content will be easier to navigate — and the search function should be a lot more useful.
Q. What advice do you have for student journalists who are starting their careers?
A. Be as widely read as you can. Having a little bit of general knowledge in many subjects will help you know when something might be fishy and needs a bit more research.
Specialize in at least one thing. I’d stick to core journalism principles because who knows where technology will take us, but key strengths such as writing, editing and fact-checking will always be necessary to produce quality journalism.
Know how everyone else does their jobs. If you’re a word person, learn what’s important to designers and visual journalists (these might be videographers or photojournalists).
Stay on top of trends. You don’t have to master everything, but know what technology can do and be able to speak about it with some familiarity.
Learn to meet deadlines (and to work quickly but accurately).
And join a journalism association! I recommend the Asian American Journalists Association, which has a convention newsroom that recruits college students from a variety of backgrounds.
Network with your peers and identify mentors (you don’t always need a personal connection to have a mentor — take Sheryl Sandberg, for example). Ask questions. And always follow up when you get someone’s business card (or contact information).