The American Press Institute is returning to Pittsburgh to kick off a second API Inclusion Index cohort and support five media organizations’ efforts toward better engaging communities of color. The project, which launches this month, will emphasize training news organizations in deep community listening.

The new project continues the work of the API Inclusion Index in Pittsburgh, where the American Press Institute worked with five news organizations throughout much of 2022 to develop an in-depth understanding of diversity and inclusion-related challenges within the Pittsburgh news ecosystem. 

Based on API’s experience with the first cohort, we decided to return to the Steel City to help media organizations develop best practices for listening and engaging traditionally marginalized communities,” said Letrell Deshan Crittenden, Ph.D., API’s director of inclusion and audience growth who developed the Index. “The API Inclusion Index is based on the ideas of repetition and muscle memory, and we believe newsrooms and news ecosystems only get stronger when they deal with challenges on an ongoing basis.”

The API Inclusion Index is a comprehensive scale that reveals inequitable practices that affect  traditionally underserved and marginalized communities, notably communities of color. The seven areas include: 

  • A lack of diversity within newsrooms 
  • A lack of inclusivity or belonging among newsroom workers of color 
  • Stereotypical coverage 
  • A lack of engagement
  • A lack of trust
  • A lack of understanding of key community assets essential to communities of color
  • A lack of infrastructure designed to support DEIB efforts inside and outside the newsroom

Five newsrooms will participate in the second cohort, including PublicSource, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, digital-first media organization that participated in the first cohort. 

“PublicSource exists to tell stories for a better Pittsburgh, and we can’t succeed unless our work is informed by and reflects the region’s diverse communities,” said Rich Lord, managing editor of PublicSource. “Participating in round one of the American Press Institute’s DEIB process brought us new techniques which have allowed us to build bridges, but we know there’s more to do in terms of building ongoing engagement processes into everything we do.”

New partners include: 

  • City Cast Pittsburgh, a daily local newsletter and podcast. 
  • WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR news station, whose mission is to inform people in ways that engage and inspire them to create a dialog about community issues and stories.
  • WQED, a community-supported educational public media.
  • YaJagoff, a podcast and blog about Pittsburgh.

“Any opportunity to work with others is a win,” said Rachael Rennebeck, co-founder at YaJagoff. “We can listen and learn how newsrooms operate and educate our audience accordingly. It is truly an honor to partake in such a project.”

The second phase also represents the first time that public media organizations will participate in the Index process. 

“We are pleased to be a part of the API newsroom project and we look forward to gaining deeper insight into the multiple ways we can increase vital engagement with our communities,” said Minette Seate, senior producer at WQED. 

For this second cohort, API is partnering with Resolve Philly, an award-winning nonprofit organization that focuses on improving how misrepresented communities are covered by the media. Resolve Philly has developed a strong portfolio in helping newsrooms engage community members through its successful collaborations with newsrooms in Philadelphia and its Modifier program. 

“We could not be more excited to work with API and the ever-evolving media organizations of Pittsburgh on this project,” said Aubrey Nagle, director of practice change at Resolve Philly. “Modifier’s mission is to help teams like these create work that represents their communities fully and accurately, so that everyone may have the access to news that they need and deserve. Through our parent organization, Resolve Philly, we’ve seen what the amplifying effect of collaboration and peer learning across media can bring to a city, and we’re glad to be a part of bringing this work to Pittsburgh.”

This cohort, which held a kickoff meeting earlier in October, will meet in person for the first time next week to learn the basics of community listening and asset mapping from API and Resolve Philly. The news organizations will also collaborate on community engagement efforts, including a series of community listening sessions in two target communities within the city.  

“City Cast is committed to highlighting and celebrating Pittsburgh’s many neighborhoods and we believe participating in the cohort will strengthen that work,” said Mallory Falk, lead producer at City Cast. “We’re excited to learn more about community engagement from true experts and to collaborate with fellow strong local newsrooms.”

The project will conclude with each newsroom developing an initiative or product focused on better connecting with underserved communities, and the creation of a community-wide advisory group that will consult local newsrooms on engaging communities of color. This advisory group will provide consultation to all local newsrooms in the region — not just the cohort members. 

Previous funding for the API Inclusion Index in Pittsburgh has been provided by the Heinz Endowments, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation and the Pittsburgh Foundation. Phase 2 is supported by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation and the Pittsburgh Foundation, with additional funding pending.

We’ll be sharing insights from this cohort, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter or sign up for future updates. 

Our goal is to continue to expand this program. If you want to bring this work to your news ecosystem or have any questions, please email Letrell Crittenden, API’s director of inclusion and audience growth, at 

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