By Hilary Meyerson
I’m printing in full a letter to the editor I received, and my response. I think it speaks for itself.
I picked up the most recent copy with the feature story about women in mountain biking; a good article noting that women not only participate but excel in an activity often associated with young men.
But I gotta say, Outdoors NW makes little effort in regards to images and stories of people of color engaged with outdoor sports. Your advertisers and gear manufacturers have included ethnic models in their catalogs, advertisements and store displays for years and recently in their roster of sponsored athletes.
Comparatively, your publications appear to be way behind the times in terms of diversity inclusion.
I myself am African-American and have been hiking, backpacking and cycling since childhood. I have broadened my outdoor pursuits to include: being a professional whitewater raft guide, completing the Mountaineer’s climbing course, being a STP one-day rider and telemark skier for the past 20 years.
There are plenty more like me: a long-time friend who’s a full-time certified snowboard instructor who happens to be black; there are at least three Filipino cycling clubs in greater Seattle; the popular Major Taylor program of Cascade Bicycle Club and the National Brotherhood of Skiers have chapters in the Northwest.
It would be great to see more diversity in your pages.
Dear David Whiting,
Thank you so much for your letter about diversity in our features and photos. To say your letter caused a stir in the office would be an understatement. I have thought of little else since it arrived. There is only one appropriate response.
You are right.
A hard look at our publication shows we rarely include people of color. So I had to look back on many issues to see how this has happened. I have no excuse, just some explanation.
We are a small publication with a small staff. For photos, we usually rely on those submitted by others: freelancers, visitors’ bureaus, tourism outlets, race directors and the like. For our stories, we usually ask our writers to take photos. When I’m pitched a story, it’s invariably over email. I do not know the race or ethnicity of the writer. The photos arrive with the story on the deadline. We select the best photos to publish. We look at photo quality, light, composition and what tells the story best. Until now, we haven’t looked too closely at the subjects. In my tenure here as editor, I’ve never turned down a photo with a person of color in it. I simply haven’t gotten one.
So what to do? Clearly, we need to do better. If we ask a ski area or tourism bureau or race director for photos, we need to ask that they include people of color. If they don’t have any, we need to ask why. We need to ask our advertising partners and tourism partners to make sure they are getting more diverse subjects in their own photos and promotional materials. We need to search out more writers of color to write stories for us. We need to request our freelance photographers to send us photos with people of color participating in outdoor events and recreation.
Outdoors NW needs to reflect the entire outdoor community, which is as wonderfully diverse as the larger Northwest community.
We can do better. And we will. Look for more stories and features from us that will include some of the suggestions you sent to us for more diverse coverage. Thank you for writing.