In 2017, the American Society of News Editors revealed that minorities comprised only 16.55 percent of employees reported by all newsrooms in its annual diversity survey, compared to 16.94 percent in 2016. If that trend continues, the lack of diverse voices in newsrooms will continue down a troublesome slope.
But some newsrooms are creating roles to address this issue. In July, the Philadelphia Media Network promoted Michael Days to a newly-created role of vice president for diversity and inclusion. In his position, Days is in charge of three pillars: looking internally at how the company hires, trains, and uplifts staff for upward movement; how the company is viewed externally; and looking at what programs they participate in.
Days believes that the information that the organization puts out should be reflective of their respective communities, and because Philadelphia is becoming more diverse, his position has never been more necessary.
“We don’t have the luxury of just putting information out there anymore and having people believe in it—they need to believe in us as a reliable and diverse source,” he said. “Externally, we have to be really deliberative. Letting people know we view ourselves as one with the community.”
He added that they are involved in pop-up job fairs, listening sessions with readers, and when they do business with others, they make sure they partner with an array of business-owners that are from different backgrounds and ethnicities.
“We’re making progress in the newsroom,” Days said. “We certainly aren’t near the ethnicity and gender demographic for the city proper though.”
But in the last year, PMN has hired six emerging journalists of color. “We’re trying to prepare for ourselves for the present, and diversity is a key piece of that.”
Martin G. Reynolds, co-executive director at Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, is partnering with PMN to help newsrooms reflect on diversity in news organizations.
“Journalists aren’t blank slates, we have our own biases,” said Reynolds. “(Journalists) need to realize they have a news organization on the line as well as a community.”
At the Poynter Institute, Doris Truong was recently promoted to the organization’s first director of training and diversity. She evaluates, executes and creates Poynter’s training programs and recruits more diverse participants and instructors.
“I’m here to help foster diversity across the journalism landscape,” she said. “But I’m not the first person with diversity in their title.”
Both Truong and Days are embarking on the same mission—more inclusive reporting in newsrooms.
“Organizations that actually value diversity and different perspectives are a hard thing to institute,” said Reynolds. “But it can affect change in the editorial process.”