At the American Press Institute, we believe that for democracies to thrive, people need accurate news and information about their communities, the problems of society and the debates over how to solve them. That requires an economically sustainable free press that reflects the diversity of American society and understands the needs of communities. For this reason, we have a historical commitment to improving diversity in journalism, but today we believe this work is more urgent than ever because:
- The lack of trust many communities have for news organizations is exacerbated by a lack of cultural competence in how the organizations cover people and issues.
- The lack of progress by many news organizations is further stalled by a lack of hiring, developing and retaining diverse staffs and leadership teams.
While advancing diversity is essential to the institute’s many initiatives, such as the Major Market Table Stakes Program, more intensive work manifests in three key areas: the API Inclusion Index, Source Matters and the Listening and Sustainability Lab.
“Diversity and belonging is not an adjunct to our work,” said Michael D. Bolden, API’s executive director and CEO. “For too long the journalism industry has made too little progress in diversifying its news organizations and in serving its communities. Inclusion is at the center of who we are at the American Press Institute, and it is one of the essential values we believe news organizations must embrace on the path to long-term sustainability in serving communities across America.”
The API Inclusion Index
Journalism needs a more complex way to assess how newsrooms represent and engage communities of color and other marginalized populations. The American Press Institute is attempting to take a step in reimagining this essential work with its new Inclusion Index.
Too often, news organizations employ an off-the-shelf approach that fails to address their specific needs. As a result, systemic change does not take place because the totality of the problem is not addressed.
The API Inclusion Index, developed by Letrell Deshan Crittenden, Ph.D., API’s director of inclusion and audience growth, reveals inequitable practices on a comprehensive scale via a targeted assessment of seven areas where potential deficits can significantly affect communities of color:
- a lack of diversity within newsrooms
- a lack of inclusivity or belonging among newsroom workers of color
- stereotypical coverage of communities of color
- a lack of engagement with communities of color
- a lack of trust of local newsrooms held by communities of color
- 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.
API’s approach is uniquely based on research. We conduct interviews with community members and staff members and assess story content before making our recommendations. This ensures that our efforts are tailored for each newsroom and the community it serves.
After our research, we provide a report of our findings, with an assessment of how each newsroom fares in the seven categories. We also provide recommendations on how each newsroom can best remediate the issues they have.
Sustainability is the other important aspect of the index. API seeks to build ongoing relationships with news organizations to help them improve upon DEIB issues for the long term.
With support from multiple foundations, this work is in the initial stages in the Pittsburgh news and information ecosystem. API is in discussions with other news organizations to expand it.
If you’re interested in bringing this work to your community and for your news ecosystem, please contact API’s director of inclusion and audience growth, Letrell Crittenden, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the American Press Institute, we believe that diversifying sourcing in news stories, whether it be experts, institutional representatives or the everyday people journalists interview, is an essential practice for news organizations committed to understanding their communities and to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Source Matters is a tool developed by API that supports automated, customizable source tracking by any news organization. It provides news organizations with a dashboard where they can track information over time about the sources they use in their content.
Building broader and deeper relationships with communities who have been excluded from mainstream news requires talking with and listening to a more diverse group of people. The sources journalists choose to quote in their stories affect and reflect whose stories get told, how stories are told, who the news is for, and what communities are served. Source Matters allows news organizations to better understand the existing dynamics of their content and to develop informed strategies that can better serve the news and information needs of their communities.
The key features of Source Matters include:
- Automatic source identification
- Newsroom selection of what information to track about their sources
- Dashboards to provide easy insights about your sources
- Source data analysis for certain authors, topics and more
- No-hassle integration with any CMS.
Source Matters is currently offered to API’s news partners for a nominal $5,000 annual fee, along with a $2,500 setup charge, to cover staff time, news partner training, infrastructure requirements and ongoing support. However, API believes there is such value in tracking news sources that part of an ongoing strategic review is considering offering the tool at a substantially reduced cost or free with philanthropic funding to newsrooms who demonstrate ongoing commitment to improving their understanding of their communities and to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging across their company.
If you work at a news organization that is interested in working to track and improve the diversity of your sources, please contact API’s Director of Metrics for News Liz Worthington at email@example.com.
Listening and Sustainability Lab
The history of the press in the United States goes far beyond “mainstream” newspapers, which have typically served majority white audiences. For centuries people of color have created their own community media and innovated how news is packaged and delivered, and spoken to the specific information, problems and debates about how to solve issues in their own communities.
This community media ecosystem continues to evolve in the digital age. We believe the publishers that thrive in the next decade will be ones who can adapt to the changing information landscape and the needs of their communities and are well-suited to do so through deep listening that informs new products and revenue streams.
Our pilot Listening & Sustainability Lab for publishers of color set out to strengthen these skills. We led a cohort of five publishers through identifying a segment of their community they wanted to better serve and helped them conduct qualitative research to understand that segment’s information needs. We then provided expert advising to help them move from research insights to a new project that creates an ongoing feedback loop with the community — advisory boards, podcasts based on community conversations, engagement-minded newsletters and more.
By the end of the pilot, publishers also pursued sponsorship and grant opportunities that would allow them to build upon their specific projects and engagement capacities more generally. The program’s goal is that publishers can repeat the “bottom-up” approach — listening to one segment of their community to inform new products and revenue streams, and using the successes from one such effort to inform the next. Our hope is it becomes a function of their business as usual, allowing them to adapt and continue to thrive.
We ran this program in partnership with the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund at Borealis Philanthropy and additional help in business advising from the RevLab at The Texas Tribune. We are looking forward to sharing the impact stories from the news organizations. We are likewise exploring opportunities to iterate or expand the Lab for additional community media publications that serve communities of color in the United States.
To learn more about opportunities with this program, please contact Samantha Ragland, vice president of journalism programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.