As a half-Irish, half-Ilocano reporter, I spent the first four years of my career on the Mainland in newsrooms in Iowa and Kansas that were anything but diverse.
In both states, I could count the number of minorities in the room on one hand, but I didn't see a lot of minorities in the communities I lived in, so I assumed they were adequately represented in our coverage.
In hindsight, I realize that I didn't see much past the story in front of me as I scrambled to prove myself.
You need only look at the Census figures and listen to the immigration debate raging in our country to see that the concerns of all segments of society are not adequately reported.
Once I came back to Hawai'i, I was able to see what it meant to Filipinos to talk to a part-Filipino reporter, or someone they could identify with because of a similar upbringing.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of the importance of recognizing and acknowledging ethnic heritage when I spent three days attending the Asian American Journalists Association's national convention, held here in Honolulu.
The AAJA promotes the effort to diversify newsrooms across the country, and it's not alone in its efforts. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association join AAJA in striving to ensure that news content reflects the rapidly changing demographics of the United States.
According to the most recent Census figures, about 33 percent of the country is ethnic minorities. And by the time the 2010 Census is official, it's expected that Hispanics will be the majority in the U.S. and Filipinos will be the largest ethnic group in Hawai'i.
However, according to the 2006 newsroom employment census conducted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, of the 54,800 daily newspaper journalists in the country, 7,600 of them are minorities, a little more than 13 percent.
Because Hawai'i itself is so diverse, and because the newspaper has made diversity a priority, at The Advertiser our reporters and editors represent many segments of our local society.
We still have problems that keep us from connecting with each other, including language barriers and socio-economic divisions. But in Hawai'i, I see the ethnic barriers falling. Here, you are a kama'aina or a malihini, and I like to believe that no one cares about the color of your skin. In my experience living in Hawai'i, the color lines are nearly invisible.
Reach Peter Boylan at email@example.com.