Welcome to American Press Institute’s four-week series on our Inclusion Index approach to serving communities of color and implementing concrete, sustainable DEIB changes within and outside of the newsroom. Each Monday for the next four weeks, API Director of Inclusion and Audience Growth Letrell Crittenden will share insights from his recent work with the Pittsburgh Inclusion Index cohort and solutions to try out in your own newsroom.
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Building a sustainable DEIB plan
My colleagues and I studied the Pittsburgh news ecosystem and worked with five local newsrooms for the past nine months on assessing their commitment to DEIB and helped them establish strategic plans to improve their efforts going forward. In this series, we’ll share how collaboration on issues related to DEIB in media may lead to significant changes within the Pittsburgh news ecosystem, and ways you can use these results in your own newsrooms.
First, the tough news. When it comes to better connecting your newsroom to communities of color and other marginalized populations, no easy fix exists.
Communities of color, notably African Americans, have developed a deep-seated resentment for most media outlets, and for good reason. Study after study — including one we released last week — demonstrates that newsrooms have too frequently neglected or harmed communities of color through their coverage practices and lack of engagement. This harm also exists inside the newsroom, where many journalists of color have opted to leave the industry as a result of toxic working conditions.
The challenge is real. But potential solutions are also real, as long as newsrooms develop clear plans with achievable outcomes. Solutions are even easier if newsrooms take a collaborative approach to problem solving with other newsrooms.
As newsrooms continue to repair relationships within the community, people of color who have turned away from local news coverage may see, within these newsrooms, a reason to believe that at least a few newsrooms in the area are investing in serving their information needs. As with any competitive industry, we will likely see other newsrooms taking stock of their shops as a means of generating trust with communities of color. This is not merely a good service for democracy and social justice — it’s good business for the news industry. That’s why it is in the interest of other newsrooms to assess how they serve and are perceived by local communities of color.
BUILD A PLAN
✅ Strengthen local talent pipelines. Developing local pipelines that train people of color to become journalists is the best way to bring diverse talent into newsrooms. This can begin in high school, but a pipeline for adults interested in journalism should also be considered. Collaborating with other newsrooms and community organizations can help broaden this effort.
✅ Invest in community engagement. Trust cannot be rebuilt without a strong investment in community engagement, which requires time and money. Consider partnering with other local newsrooms to host routine community listening sessions. Additionally, separate newsrooms could find ways to create and sustain community advisory committees that could inform them of issues on a collaborative basis.
✅ Make your newsroom a place staff can thrive. Internal structure and culture can impede the improvement of DEIB. Newsrooms must assess their overall health and put in place structures to ensure that all staff members can thrive. This could include stronger onboarding processes, mentorship programs, funded opportunities for training, access to mental health professionals and strong policies related to harassment and abuse.
✅ Regularly assess your newsgathering practices. Source auditing, content auditing and asset mapping help newsrooms track the impact of their efforts. Start this work at a lower cost by using a simple spreadsheet that contains the names of sources to track how sources are used in stories. Efforts to systematically review content, sources and practices will help solve issues of representation, even if they are not the most high-tech endeavors. And don’t forget to update your style guide, too!
+ Work with local organizations that offer journalism or multimedia training, such as the Frank Bolden Urban Multimedia Workshop in Pittsburgh.
+ Use the API Inclusion Index rubric as a starting point to assess your newsroom’s DEIB efforts, and check out how the Pittsburgh news ecosystem scored on the Index. Note that just applying the Index without the research will not lead to systemic changes, which is the goal of the work — get in touch with API about the proper application and analysis of the Index.
+ Draw inspiration from the Solidarity Journalism Initiative, which offers guides on solidarity reporting, how to navigate empathy fatigue and assessing newsworthiness.
+ Use Google tools to conduct asset mapping in your community.
WHAT OUR NEWS PARTNERS ARE DOING
+ The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review launched a diversity scholarship program for college students that includes award money, an internship and an offer of full-time employment following graduation. They also intend to expand their coverage of diverse communities and host more community listening sessions.
+ The University of Pittsburgh’s student news outlet Pitt News plans to outline the steps the university can take to address diversity disparities as a predominantly white institution. They will establish a system to connect with the community and ramp up recruitment efforts while cultivating a more welcoming internal culture to improve newsroom diversity.
+ Pittsburgh City Paper plans to track source data, give staff more time to connect with the community and use the current transition of ownership and leadership as an opportunity to create a more vibrant workplace community.
+ PublicSource aims to build a map of the people and places doing important work in Pittsburgh, foster a diverse community advisory group to provide regular feedback and formalize diversity tracking of job candidates, interns and staffers.
View the next installment here.