Making the data count

News Leaders Association overhauls diversity survey

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News Leaders Association (NLA) has announced a comprehensive update to the former ASNE Diversity Survey, renamed the Transformative Transparency Project. It will provide the numbers, narratives and knowledge to assist news media stakeholders in undertaking reforms that address the lack of newsroom diversity, according to newsleaders.org.

The original survey launched in 1978, and discussions for this revamp began two years ago, Katrice Hardy, chair of the NLA Diversity Committee, told E&P. She explained that the survey had been struggling with getting good participation for years. NLA also felt that it needed to do more than publish results.

“We started to think, ‘We want to do this, we need to this, but we need to make sure that it can actually make a difference,’ ” Hardy said.

According to Hardy, the project has two phases. The first phase included releasing the survey to news organizations in July and collecting data through August. Then, with the help of Meredith Clark, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, and Google, NLA will analyze the data and present the results at its virtual conference in October.

The second phase includes another survey available to individual journalists, allowing them to self-report their demographic data. This survey will enable journalists to share their information even if their news organization does not participate. NLA will roll it out in the first quarter of 2022.

This survey has several fundamental changes, including expanding the definition of diversity to include social class and social mobility, expansion on multiple racial and ethnic identities, and inclusion of data points to recognize LGBTQIA+ identifying journalists.

NLA also wants to partner with other organizations that provide grants and other resources so that completing the survey becomes a mandatory part of the application process. However, that is still a work in process, Hardy said.

Additionally, NLA has launched the Transformative Transparency Exchange, a monthly event series where discussions regarding issues related to diversity in the industry occur. These sessions are open to everyone. Previous sessions have centered around, for example, the needs of women in leadership and journalists who identify as Asian American and Pacific Islanders. 

The Indianapolis Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Buzzfeed and The Texas Tribune participated in the project's pilot. Shortly after, the killing of George Floyd, a Minnesota Black man, occurred.  Hardy said this significantly influenced the NLA's work because news organizations became interested in sharing their diversity data.

At print date, Hardy said the NLA mostly hears concerns over some of the questions, like those on sexual orientation. There is information that some news organizations either do not collect or do not feel they can legally collect. Due to these concerns, the survey makes it easy to note that this information is not available and why this is the case.

Hardy hopes for extensive participation by news organizations that will use toolkits and other resources NLA wants to provide.

NLA also wants to make sure it is holding people accountable, she said. “We’ve been a little reluctant to do that in the past.”

For more information, visit newsleaders.org/transformative-transparency-project.

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