Since beginning her career in journalism, Candi Meriwether has always been immersed in conversations surrounding diversity. Now, she is passing down her experience to Columbia College Chicago students that are hoping to get into the field.
“The [journalism] industry has changed immensely,” Meriwether said while addressing a class of journalism students at Columbia last month. “But the Seattle Times newsroom, believe it or not, may have been one of the most diverse newsrooms I’ve ever worked in.”
Meriwether, an adjunct professor in the Communication Department and self-described “news junkie,” told Columbia students she landed her first job in journalism at The Seattle Times in 1992, where she worked as a design editor.
“At that time, we were trying to get more journalists of color to work in our newsroom and to recruit journalists of color for leadership jobs,” Meriwether said. “I feel like I’m coming full circle; I am having the same conversations now that I was having in 1992. There is always a need for a more diverse newsroom.”
In addition to teaching at Columbia, Meriwether works as an assistant metro editor for the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Chicago native noted that diversity has been an ongoing and constant conversation in her journalism career. Despite the idea of diversity primarily consisting of communities of color, Meriwether also believes youth is a valuable aspect of diversity that is a necessity within the industry.
“When I started out in journalism, everyone was older and I was the kid,” Meriwether said. “We almost missed some important stories in Seattle, but we got them because I was young.”
Meriwether told students that when rock star Kurt Cobain was found dead in 1994, many of her older colleagues had no idea who he was until she told them.
Much like Meriwether, Zanida Corujo, a freshman vocal music major at Columbia, believes there should be more than one level of diversity in the media.
“I think nowadays the media is making more room for diversity and is more diverse,” Corujo said. “[The] media is better at portraying more than just people of color, but also more plus-size people and people with different abilities.”
Bree Greenidge, a former Columbia student and current Harold Washington College freshman, agrees.
“We need representation of every ethnicity,” Greenidge said. “Give people a chance to share their own minds, hearts, and experiences. We are all human.”
Meriwether discussed how prideful she is to have graduated from Howard University, a historically Black college, just like America’s first woman of color vice president, Kamala Harris. Although the two did not attend the school at the same time, Meriwether acknowledged how it feels to have a vice president who shares the same demographics as her.
“It is an honor having our school’s name attached to a position of power in this country,” Meriwether said. “It is extremely gratifying.”
Throughout the conversation, Meriwether made it clear how important this moment is in America’s history.
“This is an opportune time in history where people of color are being sought and viewed as ready to emerge into roles they have always been qualified for,” Meriwether said. “Sometimes it takes a pandemic and civil unrest to spark the conversation to reveal the weaknesses where diversity is concerned. The people with the qualifications have always been there, the opportunities have not.”