Not ‘Just Another’ Cancer or Diversity Story

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

New medical research released this week shows that there is no evidence to prove that breast self-exams do any good. In fact, self exams may even lead to unnecessary biopsies. Like many other news organizations, TIME magazine reported on this issue, but it also linked to coverage about the “changing face” of breast cancer, focusing on one Asian woman’s experience with the disease.

What I like about the changing face story is that it takes a frequently reported health issue and diversifies it. In doing so, the article taught me something new. I’ve read dozens of stories about breast cancer, but I never knew that the disease is a relatively new concern in China. TIME reports:

But in China, as in most other emerging economies, breast cancer is a relatively new concern, something that both patients and doctors are only haltingly learning how to treat. Previously a malady that mostly afflicted white, affluent women in the industrial hubs of North America and Western Europe, breast cancer is everywhere. Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America have all seen their caseloads spike. By 2020, 70% of all breast-cancer cases worldwide will be in developing countries.

The article gets at the diversity angle without screaming, “this is a diversity-related story.” I’ve found in reporting on diversity-related issues that people sometimes get turned off by the word diversity.

Quality diversity reporting doesn’t just focus on the D-word; it looks at how global issues relate to the people in under-covered communities — people who may play critical, but misunderstood or unknown, roles in the overall story being reported. The changing face story wasn’t “just another” cancer story that revealed nothing new, and nor was it just another diversity story.

To my earlier point: Why do you think some people get turned off by the word diversity?