Black Journalists in Iowa
A call from a local news reporter brought to my attention how challenging it is to be a black journalist in Iowa. Recently, Lauren Johnson, KCCI news reporter, was asked to leave an Ankeny school board meeting. The meeting included a discussion of the need for hiring a diversity specialist for the district which many parents feels is mandatory. Lauren was asked by a district official to leave the meeting because “there was no room” she was “loud” and “would need to watch it livestream”.
The reporter who called me indicated that this rudeness to black journalists which she referred to as “racism” happens much too often here in Iowa. This reporter stated that if interviewed, every black media journalist in the state would have a story to tell about how negatively they have been treated while trying to do their jobs in getting new stories for Iowans.
We Need a Culture Shift
I am glad that Ankeny School Board Superintendent, Dr. Eric Pruitt, apologized to Lauren publicly and stated that in the future, “Ankeny schools will reserve a space for news media at future board meetings and work with district staff on creating a welcoming environment”. However, this one apology is not enough! Something needs to happen statewide that insures that all black journalists will be treated respectfully and allowed to do their jobs in a welcoming environment. As Chair of the State Legislative Black Caucus, I vow to work with other lawmakers to ensure that this security for all Iowa Black Journalists becomes a reality.
Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines