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4 ways managers can build a more inclusive newsroom for diverse new hires

A goal from our Creating a Culture of Listening Summit in Nashville, TN.

We know the numbers about newsroom diversity aren’t shifting in the direction we want them to. We’ve seen reports and studies that profess change, but a quick glance around local newsrooms tells another story.

At API, we’re committed to researching the best practices in newsrooms around the country and trying to facilitate change — not to reach a quota, but because we know diverse talent and organizations that mirror their communities result in more well-rounded, connected journalism.

We’ve partnered with the Emma Bowen Foundation, known for its approach to building the pipeline for diverse talent, and the Institute for Nonprofit News to develop a training for managers. It will help them build their own plans for becoming inclusive newsrooms and welcoming new hires and fellows who may not see themselves reflected in the current staffs.

On Thursday, the Emma Bowen Foundation and the Institute for Nonprofit News will host an intense and interactive day of training designed to support INN members in creating and providing an inclusive work environment for the diverse fellows who have been assigned to them this summer. Both API and the Maynard Institute will facilitate a blend of presentations, small group discussions and individual work.

Our hope is that the attendees at this workshop will take the practices and tips and apply them not only for incoming summer fellows but for any new hires.

For those unable to attend, we want to share four ways that managers can build a more inclusive, welcoming workplace.

1. Acknowledge your own personal bias

“Bias” is a loaded term in journalism — often thrown around as an accusation of fault. But the healthier way to think about it is that each of us has personal lived experiences that affect our daily interactions and ways of thinking about the world. We should understand those biases or perspectives we have and acknowledge these differences, rather than hide from them.

The event will focus on acknowledging and examining those implicit biases and thinking deeply about their impact on the job of being a journalist. Consider your own lived experiences. What layers of your life are important to you that may not be outwardly represented? Think about whether language, religion, geography and other life values (i.e. family, veganism, feminism, social justice) you consider priorities and how that shapes and colors your perspective. What might it feel like to have those values misconstrued or misunderstood?

2. Understand that both you and your new hire will need to be vulnerable

Often, when people of color or other underrepresented minorities walk into a newsroom aware that they’re the only one, it can be uncomfortable for both sides. You should seek to make them feel more comfortable.

Be open with conversations about how your organization has lacked diversity in the past and wants to work to change that, but don’t make the new hire feel as though that’s the only reason they’re here. Don’t hire someone who checks the diversity box, then expect them to conform to the culture that exists.

Allow them to facilitate conversations about what might need to change in order to foster a successful, diverse newsroom. Give them a voice, and more importantly, listen to that voice. Provide them opportunities to cover topics that interest them (even if they don’t interest you as much) and give them chances to voice opinions about what could be done to improve coverage. A little humility and open communication can go a long way.

3. Be intentional in your approach to diversity recruitment

Whether you’re in a management position or not, you can mentor individuals interested in the industry, particularly those outside of your network.

They may differ in gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or any number of other ways, but using your experience in the industry to bring someone else up can build your own newsroom’s pipeline and strengthen relationships in the community. Taking the time to chat with college students could make the difference in their careers.

Good, diverse talent doesn’t appear overnight. The right people are there. It just takes a little relationship building to initiate the connections they might otherwise never have.

4. If you haven’t thought about inclusion efforts before your employee starts, you’re already behind

“Where do I go on day one? Who do I ask for upon arrival? What do I wear?” Connect with your new hire well before their first day and answer these questions to offset the nerves that come with starting a new job. Remembering your own first days at a new job can help you think of ways to prepare them.

Set up your new hire’s desk, phone, computer and password login before arrival. The worst thing for a new employee is being wooed through the recruiting process and then arriving on the first day job without anyone expecting them.

We want to encourage news organizations to rethink how they bring new staff into the fold — away from the clinical nature of “onboarding” and toward the human concept of welcoming and hospitality. In that vein, we want managers to think about more than just sharing logins and pointing out where the bathrooms are. Where will this person live in the community? Are there places they can go and feel comfortable after work? How will they adjust to living in a community that doesn’t look like them? How can you as their employer make that transition easier?

* * *

Director of Newsroom Learning Amy Kovac-Ashley will facilitate several sessions during the workshop, along with Program Associate Katherine K. Ellis. This is part of Amy’s work in fostering better and more inclusive newsroom cultures and improving professional development for journalists across the industry. She regularly visits newsrooms around the country to help them delve deeper into how their newsroom culture can help them succeed and where it may be holding back their transformation efforts. She also conducts API’s skills assessment to help newsrooms find out what skills they have, what skills they need, and how to create a learning plan to fill the gaps.

If you want more information or to get involved in any of these things, please contact us.

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