Copy editors can help guard against coverage that lacks diversity and language that perpetuates stereotypes. Often, such lapses are not the result of prejudice but rather blind spots, as Dori Maynard of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education explained during the Editing the Future conference. In the clip, Maynard explains how journalists can be blocked from seeing the full picture by the five Fault Lines that permeate society: race, class, gender, generation and geography. If journalists look at a situation through the perspective of their own race or generation, they're likely to be blind to the perspectives of people who come from the other side of the fault lines.
I've shown Maynard's segment to my students and asked them to discuss their own blind spots - and they did so with brutal honesty. We are a largely white campus on the edge of Appalachia. As the discussion evolved, my largely middle-class, white students began to understand how their blind spots hurt their ability to accept a black student's statement that he was the subject of racial slurs. They also realized they may not comprehend how poverty can affect attitude or behavior.
The beauty of this exercise is that it never stops: Once students realize they have blind spots, they remain aware of how much they may not know about another person or culture.