Photo by Kellen Hazelip, Ball State University

Kaitlin Lange
Ball State University

Hollis R. Towns, the executive editor and vice president of the Asbury Park Press, has long been an advocate for increasing diversity in newsrooms.

On Tuesday, ASNE and APME awarded Towns the McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership at the 2016 News Editors Conference. The award is given each year in honor of the late McGruder, once an editor of the Detroit Free Press and managing editor of The Plain Dealer.

Grateful for the award, Towns said he has mostly led by example to encourage diversity.

Since his first days as managing editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette, Towns has made an effort to increase the diversity of both the newspaper coverage and the staff. Before going to the Ashbury Park Press, he was the executive editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“The point is, diversity is a reflection of the country,” Towns said. “It’s more than just one local community. Having a variety of opinions and having a variety of voices in a story, as well as a variety of people telling those stories, I think is an important component to the story telling itself.”

When he searches for job candidates, he makes sure he’s given diverse applicants. And if not, the paper simply needs to reach further.

While Towns has constantly strived for diversity at his own papers, he said newsrooms still have a long way to go.

“I’m disappointed in where we are,” Towns said. “I think we should be farther along than where we are as a country. I said a little bit yesterday in the (Minority Newsroom Experience) session about the fact that there are leaders in that room who have the capacity to make a difference immediately. The problem with not having a diverse newsroom is not someone else’s problem. That decision starts at the top.”