• Brittany Trang, Sharon Begley Science Reporting Fellow, STAT News
  • Jyoti Madhusoodanan, independent science journalist
  • Laura Santhanam, health reporter & coordinating producer for Polling, PBS NewsHour
  • Ryan Levi, producer for “Tradeoffs” podcast
  • Emma Yasinski, freelance science journalist (moderator)

By Alexis Allison

When Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Ed Yong audited his stories for diversity, the numbers disappointed him: More than one-third of his stories featured no women. The data served as a “vaccine against self-delusion,” he wrote in The Atlantic.

Brittany Trang shared Yong’s anecdote in talking about how to add context about equity and access in health stories. She and the other panelists discussed how to pursue diverse voices while reporting, center those voices in the storytelling and, more broadly, include them as leaders in the newsroom. 

More than anything, they sought to normalize the pursuit of diversity during the reporting process. “Finding diverse sources is the same as finding ‘normal sources,’” Trang said. 

She outlined editorial decisions that do the opposite: 

  • Reporting on Black stories only during Black History month
  •  Interviewing people only about their identities
  •  Including a diverse source merely as a “token” addition. 

Avoiding these pitfalls may take extra work, she said, but so does pursuing experts with niche specialties.

Reporting with a diversity lens increases accuracy and accountability, Jyoti Madhusoodanan said. For her, that means interrogating authors of scientific studies about how they collected the data and from whom. “When we ask about demographics … it also reveals who the science helps and who's left out of it,” she said. 

Ryan Levi encouraged reporters to ask two questions as they plan their narrative: How central is equity to your story? What do you want your audience to take away? Every story has an equity angle, but not every story needs to be about equity, he said. 

He offered two examples from the Tradeoffs Podcast: The Hurdles Facing Black Families Navigating Serious Illness, which centers equity, and an unaired episode about home hospital care, which explores but does not focus on equity. 

The latter story still includes more than a throw-away reference: “We wanted to make sure at the end of that 20-minute story … you could give me a sentence about what the equity takeaway was,” he said.

Laura Santhanam broadened the conversation: Embracing diversity means doing so throughout the newsroom, she said. In part, she said, that looks like hiring to reflect the communities the newsroom covers.

“We tend to reflect the lived experiences that we bring into our newsroom,” she said, “and that translates to the stories we spot on a day-to-day basis that we then go out and report.”

Alexis Allison is a health reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She was a 2023 AHCJ-Texas Health Journalism Fellow.