Opinion Columns & Blogs

Publications must reflect community's rich diversity

Have you ever picked up a real estate magazine as you enter your favorite breakfast restaurant on a Sunday morning? You might not be looking for a new home, but just want to see what's out there and lament the ridiculously high prices that make your property taxes creep up mercilessly.

I must declare that I am guilty as charged!

I have seen the evolution of real estate magazines from little pamphlets in black and white to full color, glossy publications. They not only advertise homes, but also display amenities and show the occupants enjoying their living spaces. Advertising companies have revolutionized the way in which we shop for homes. They can influence the buyer away from or toward builders or neighborhoods based on what the customer sees and perceives.

As an ethnic minority and because of my education in the area of equal opportunity and diversity, I probably look at ads or stories that portray people more critically than the average person. I search for the faces of people who look like me, other minorities and persons with visible disabilities. Their inclusion in any type of newspaper or magazine requires deliberate thinking and commitment from both the client and the publisher to reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

I recently patronized a local warehouse store and a free, flashy, high end new homes advertisement magazine caught my attention. As I leafed through the pages, I did my usual scrutiny for home improvement ideas and also for ethnic balance. I was pleasantly surprised to find a significant number of minority children and couple photos sprinkled throughout the magazine. There was even an interracial couple, which is a rarity in this type of media.

Well done to the businesses, photographers and editors who cared enough to deliberately seek and present a true crosscut of our community in that publication!

May I suggest prominently displaying an American with Disabilities Act accessible home with its corresponding occupant in future editions of real estate magazines? By portraying positive images of disability the advertisers convey a powerful message, and at the same time people with disabilities are featured as included equals. Let's really mix it in and incorporate a same sex couple as they also purchase property.

We have growing racial, ethnic and culturally diverse populations in our state and particularly in the South Puget Sound area. We also have increasing numbers of persons with disabilities. More often than not, the pictures we see in our local magazines and newspapers do not show them.

I choose to believe that this exclusion is not deliberate. I do think that those in positions to affect the portrayal of minorities need to seek out and reflect our changing composition. It is easy to take a picture, do a layout, or create a brochure or newsletter. It is trickier to analyze or critique whether the work truly reflects our community's diversity and take the extra time and effort to be inclu sive.

Lourdes "Alfie" Alvarado is deputy director for the Department of Veterans Affairs and chair of the Governor's Affirmative Action Policy Committee. A member of The Olympian's Diversity Panel, Alvarado can be reached at alfiealvarado@msn.com.