The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The Talon’s 2023 First Semester Diversity Audit

As journalists, we’re in the business of people — it’s our job to accurately represent our community. We believe in holding ourselves accountable to this mission, which is why we chose to conduct a diversity audit, to determine if we’re hearing from all voices on campus. 

To better understand whether we’re representing the entire student body, we’ve taken a census of the 23 Talon staff members and the 261 interviews we conducted in the first semester of the 2023-2024 school year. We’ve compared this information to the demographics of the LAHS student body and a previous Talon Diversity Audit published in 2021.

We care about these statistics because the diversity of our staff and sources is directly related to how well we’re covering LAHS. As a relatively small sample of the LAHS population tasked with reporting on our community in its entirety, a lack of diversity means that some students and community members are being left out. And, as the following data reveals, The Talon’s sources and staff aren’t as diverse as we’d like them to be. 

We understand that this data might, in some places, make The Talon look bad. But, as a journalism organization, our goal is to cover the full truth about our community — including about ourselves. We hope to continually publish diversity audits like this one to track our progress in achieving equitable coverage and to use them as catalysts for improvement. Our goal for the next semester and beyond is to live up to our mission statement: to help all of our readers understand our local community and to represent it fully and honestly. 

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We’re sharing this information in hopes of increasing our transparency: to show LAHS how The Talon is striving to represent its community and the areas where we’re still falling short. 

Source audit:

Our biggest lapse was in sourcing Hispanic and Latino students: despite LAHS consisting of 27.2 percent Hispanic students, only 8.8 percent of The Talon’s sources identified as Hispanic/Latino. 

As a student paper, the lack of Hispanic and Latino voices in our newspaper means that some student groups and communities on campus are underrepresented. That’s unacceptable. Though we’re making improvements — in our 2021 Diversity Audit, only 2 percent of sources sampled identified as Hispanic — these results reveal that The Talon still needs to diversify our coverage to accurately represent our student body. 

Similarly, the gender-based breakdown of our sources revealed inconsistencies between our sources and the student body. While the number of men and women on campus is fairly equal, 65.1 percent of our sources identify as women, while only 29.9 percent identify as men. 5 percent of our sources identify as non-binary or otherwise gender non-conforming, but that statistic is difficult to contextualize since government databases don’t officially recognize many non-binary students’ gender identities. 

Compared to our 2021 audit, by proportion, we’re interviewing fewer men and more sources who identify as a gender other than male or female — but both slimly. As discussed in the subsequent “Staff” section of this audit, the Talon staff is majority women, which may influence the gender breakdown of our sources.

The Talon also recorded the grade levels of each student who was a source for Talon coverage, a statistic that was not tracked in previous audits. Our data states that the majority of students interviewed were seniors (53.7 percent), followed by juniors and sophomores. Only 2 percent of sources were freshmen; less than one in five students interviewed were underclassmen. 

While this statistic makes sense in some ways — student leaders tend to be upperclassmen — we still hope to publish coverage that equally impacts all students regardless of grade. 

Staff audit: 

Beyond tracking our sources, we also surveyed The Talon staff on their race, grade and gender identity. First, Talon’s staff has a notable lack of racial diversity. 56.5% of our staff identifies as Asian, only 4.3% identify as Hispanic/Latino and none identify as African-American or Native American. 

The majority of Talon staff — 56.5 percent — identify as female, compared to 30.4 percent who identify as men and 13 percent non-binary. Compared to two years ago, Talon’s staff is closer to parity — relatively more students identify as men and non-binary. 

Our staff is also roughly split between sophomores, juniors and seniors; roughly 40 percent of Talon are seniors, followed by 34.8 percent juniors and 26 percent sophomores. (Freshmen are not permitted to join Talon directly; all freshmen are encouraged to join Journalism One to prepare to join Talon as a sophomore). 

Especially in the newsroom, a wide range of experiences and backgrounds allows us to cover our community more accurately and inclusively. A lack of racial diversity can influence the types of stories that our journalists report on, influencing the source diversity noted above. While it may be easier and more comfortable for our staff to interview people they’re familiar with, the best journalism requires us to seek out perspectives not included in our newsroom. 

We can’t control the demographics of our newsroom — the Talon is a no-audition class, open to anyone who takes Journalism One — but we can make our paper [more representative of our school], and hopefully inspire students of every demographic to join journalism. If we strive to make our coverage accurate and diverse, we hope our newsroom will naturally follow suit. 

Moving Forward:

Comparing our results to the 2021 audit, Talon seems to be heading in the right direction, slowly diversifying our sources and staff. Yet, we still don’t fully represent LAHS and our community. 

This audit is not a call to pick sources based on race, gender, grade or other identity-based characteristics. We believe in interviewing the best source for a topic; thus, we will continue to select sources based on their expertise and relevance to an article, not demographic information. But our data reveals a need to diversify the stories we cover. 

We hope to make progress towards this goal with the support of you — the LAHS community. If you have a story that you believe is important, please let a Talon reporter know — you can also reach out to us by messaging @lahstalon on Instagram or emailing us at [email protected] — we’d love to hear your suggestions. And, if you feel that there’s a significant story in the Mountain View–Los Altos community that we’re not covering sufficiently, please let us know. In listening to our community, we aim to shape our coverage around the issues and events that matter. 

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