Miriam Grabenheinrich (2023): Journalismus und Diversity. Umgang mit kultureller Diversität in der journalistischen Praxis und Konsequenzen für die Aus- und Fortbildung. [Journalism and Diversity. Addressing Cultural Diversity in Journalistic Practice and Implications for Education and Training.]

Reviewed by Bärbel Röben

Germany has long been a country of immigration, but in journalistic training, the necessary new key skills of addressing diversity and differentiation are rarely taught, as I pointed out at the DGPuK conference as early as 2003 (cf. Röben 2004: 265-275). Thanks to Miriam Grabenheinrich’s extensive research, we finally have a theoretically sound, practice-tested concept for raising journalists’ intercultural awareness! The volume is published in the series »Ethnologie als Praxis« [Ethnology as a Practice].

It is the first ethnological study on the »Implementation of Media Diversity in Journalism Education and Training,« as proposed by ethnologist Julia Bayer in her dissertation in 2013 (Bayer 2013: 232ff.). Miriam Grabenheinrich, an ethnologist, lecturer, and coach with over twenty years of professional experience as a journalist, is familiar with both disciplines. She has been working on journalists’ (lack of) diversity skills since 2010. In her research project, she combines scholarly theories and methods with journalistic research to determine »how journalists address cultural diversity and the implications for ethnological perspectives in journalism education and training« (p. 275).

She explores this issue in eight chapters. First, she sheds light on the profession of journalism, using online and telephone research to determine the current state of teaching diversity in journalism training. As of August 2019, only schools in Berlin and Nuremberg explicitly offered journalism courses on diversity. She used a focus group analysis to determine to which extent journalists address cultural diversity in their training and further education, and to assess the unmet need for diversity training. Participants are to gain awareness that »by selecting and reducing topics, they construct a media reality dominated by the majority perspective«. The author conducted a content analysis to enable the necessary examination of media content, derived from an inventory of German media coverage of people with a migratory background. She found deficiencies in local news coverage and only a small number of categories for diversity. Especially people with African backgrounds are barely covered at all.

The theoretical framework for Grabenheinrich’s research is a diversity approach, which is no longer structure-oriented following a critical examination of the concept of culture in anthropology. Grabenheinrich highlights three aspects of this modified diversity approach: first, its multidimensionality, i.e., a wealth of dimensions such as gender, age, religion, and culture. Expanding the concept of culture in the concept of superdiversity, the approach is also intersectional: It is about intertwined, multiple, variable identities. A third aspect is a critique of representation, including a »reflection on normativity, speakers’ positions, contexts of power and contexts of formation.«

Postcolonial theory offers »a solid basis, especially in its concept of ›Othering‹«, to recognize dominance structures and processes of demarcation, as the author explains. The social orders of difference inscribed in discourses of knowledge emerge by combining homogenization, naturalization, dichotomization, and hierarchization.

Grabenheinrich also identifies these four strategies in a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of 60 articles about people of African background in the television show WDR-Lokalzeit and the newspaper Neue Westfälische: They are homogenized and naturalized by phrases such as »the blacks,« »the Africans,« »African culture,« as well as by drumbeats and images of nature-based, traditional life in Africa. By way of dichotomization and hierarchization, »the Africans« are demarcated from »the Germans«. »Helping Germans« are contrasted with »needy, silent Africans« (p. 194).

The focus group analysis consists of classroom observations, written surveys, and focus group discussions. The subject of the study is a total of 16 diversity events between 2013 and 2018. Grabenheinrich first took part in two diversity training courses offered by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, and then evaluated twelve university seminars on practical journalism as well as two trial trainings on diversity conducted by herself. As she evaluated her own events, she reflected on her underlying ethical position as a researcher (cf. p. 156f.). From the focus group analysis, she derives proposed standards for a diversity training program: strong practical relevance (esp. competitive advantages, topic setting, product analysis), background information (especially facts about minorities, culture, diversity) as well as soft skills (especially perception of others, change of perspective, reduction of bias) as well as creativity techniques and guidelines for diversity-sensitive reporting. From content and focus group analyses, Grabenheinrich developed a detailed didactic concept. Journalistic diversity skills can only evolve in the long term, however, if a differentiated understanding of diversity is embedded in media companies – by way of regular learning opportunities, a holistic mission statement, hiring diversity officers, networking with migrant organizations or ethnologists, as well as a higher proportion of staff with a migratory background, and, of course, regular evaluation of all these measures.

Grabenheinrich’s book is a smooth read. She presents the results of her research and analyses not only in the body text, but also in visual overviews. Numerous appendices and an extensive table of contents complete her work. Another interesting aspect is the many parallels between her theoretical framing and gender studies in communication studies (such as representation critique, postcolonial studies, constructivism, »Othering«). Unfortunately, Grabenheinrich does not address these, nor any ethnographic methods in gender research. Hopefully, diversity skills will finally find their way into the mandatory curricula of journalism training. With her research, Miriam Grabenheinrich laid the foundation for it!

About the reviewer

Dr. Bärbel Röben is a freelance journalist and media scientist living in Attendorn/Sauerland. She works primarily for the ver.di media magazine M – Menschen machen Medien. One of her main areas of work is the topic of »Migrant women in media production«, on which she published an article in the handbook Medien und Geschlecht (2023, Springer VS).

About the book

Miriam Grabenheinrich (2023): Journalismus und Diversity. Umgang mit kultureller Diversität in der journalistischen Praxis und Konsequenzen für die Aus- und Fortbildung. [Journalism and Diversity. Addressing Cultural Diversity in Journalistic Practice and Implications for Education and Training.] Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 414 pages, EUR 69.99.