Since we launched The Diversity Pledge Institute in 2021, we have placed dozens of journalists in newsrooms across the globe — and none of them have quit their jobs yet. That’s contrary to the standard practice by newsrooms to address their lack of diversity through a misguided and unreliable strategy centered around recruiting and hiring goals.
Best of what’s left
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), it can cost a company up to nine months of an employee's salary to replace that employee. So, that new hotshot editor you hired for $100,000, who quit in less than a year, can cost you up to $75,000 in recruiting and training costs to replace — potentially the salary of another full-time employee who could be contributing to your newsroom.
And the longer it takes to replace someone, the more it costs. Depending on the responsibilities and the role within the company, that number can become astronomical.
However, the business case for diversity extends beyond the costs of recruiting and training. There’s also the issue of talent drain.
“If your organization is doing things that systemically run off talented people, you will, by definition, be left with less talented people,” said Derek Avery, a business professor at the University of Houston.
That’s the state of many newsrooms now.
Nobody wants to stay in a newsroom that ignores well-documented problems that hinder an individual’s personal and professional development. The days of sticking it out for a couple of years, hoping things improve, are gone.
Let’s be clear: Journalism is in the midst of an arm’s race for diverse talent. It’s impossible to retain talent and transform those antiquated and prejudicial structures if you can’t identify the actual problems.
Audits aren’t surveys
Improving revenue streams through diverse audiences can’t happen without creating inclusive newsrooms first. You need accurate, systems-level data instead of vanity DEIA metrics and activities to do that.
That’s where an effective newsroom diversity and inclusion survey is critical. We’ve known for years that there’s a lack of diversity in newsrooms. We don’t need another demographic-audit-mistaken-for-a-diversity survey to tell us that. That’s why at DPI, we’ve tried to tackle this problem by creating a new kind of diversity survey, a survey we believe will also prove to be an apparent competitive advantage among participants. For starters, it could supplement the DEIA work already done in your newsroom. It could also provide newsrooms with the framework needed to modify their DEIA tactics and outcome goals while providing insight into strategies that will improve retention targets.
Bring back trust in news
While we’re constantly reading about the dwindling trust in journalism, we rarely discuss the mistrust among journalists. That feeling is amplified exponentially regarding the lack of progress in diversity and inclusion. Based on my experiences, journalists of color don’t trust most “anonymous” surveys. This is why our diversity survey project (and our general approach to this work) also focuses on building relationships and partnerships with newsrooms and journalists. Media companies can’t view DEIA and retention as a solo project when it should be a team sport.
Newsrooms can only improve their culture and retain their best people only with the right data. We view hiring and recruiting as the final piece of the DEIA puzzle if an organization hopes to have any chance of sustainability regarding its diversity initiatives.
Larry Graham is the founder and executive director of The Diversity Pledge Institute.
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