The American Press Institute is excited to announce that Letrell Deshan Crittenden will join our team as Director of Inclusion and Audience Growth on Monday, Sept. 20.
Dr. Crittenden joins API from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, where he was program director and assistant professor of communication. He specializes in issues related to diversity and inclusion in news and community-engaged journalism. At Jefferson, he helped revamp the program’s curriculum and served as the inaugural Diversity Advocate for the College of Humanities and Sciences. For his efforts inside and outside the classroom, he received the university’s 2021 Provost’s Award for Service to the Profession. He has also been a fellow with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and the Media and Inequality Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Crittenden earned his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His doctoral dissertation focused on the history of the National Association of Black Journalists, of which he is a member.
Prior to his academic career, Dr. Crittenden was a police and government reporter and is a veteran practitioner of community journalism. He is editor and co-researcher for the Germantown Info Hub, a collaboration with Temple University designed to provide better news coverage of the city’s Germantown neighborhood. He has also consulted for API on diversity-related issues as part of our community listening work.
Dr. Crittenden will be the first director of inclusion and audience growth at API. In this role, he will build upon API’s work in the area of organizational and cultural change and deepen the organization’s focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. He will both catalyze and partner with organizations already working in the DEI/B space.
“We could not be more pleased to have Dr. Crittenden join our team and lead this essential area of work,” said Amy L. Kovac-Ashley, executive vice president and chief of news transformation at API. “He is a talented scholar who is deeply rooted in the practical and real-world information needs of communities of color and others who have long been neglected or harmed by news organizations. We value his holistic approach to improving journalism, not just by better engaging and serving diverse communities but also by creating and sustaining more equitable workplaces inside news organizations.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Crittenden introduced a new approach to assessing these complex issues in the form of a rubric: Assessing Diversity and Inclusion in News Ecosystems. It allows for a systemic look at the challenges news organizations face and offers opportunities to look at the goals of DEI/B from many different facets. He will bring this tool to API and put it into practice with news organization partners as part of the programming that he will develop in the areas of inclusion and audience growth. He will also build upon and expand relevant work and tools API has developed in the area of listening, attracting and growing audiences, understanding audiences and source auditing — including the new Source Matters tool that API launched in June.
“Now more than ever, it is imperative for newsrooms to take seriously the need to better represent and engage diverse communities and audiences. It’s good for democracy, it’s good business and it’s just good journalism,” Dr. Crittenden said. “It is my hope that, through this new position, the American Press Institute can, through a metrics-driven and solutions-oriented approach, assist newsrooms on their journey toward creating newsrooms that are truly responsive to the needs of BIPOC populations, both inside and outside of the newsrooms. I am truly humbled by this opportunity, and I look forward to working alongside other leaders in the DEI space as we work toward transforming newsrooms across the nation.”
In addition to working directly with news organizations, Dr. Crittenden will build partnerships and find ways to collaborate with people from across the journalism industry and also seek out best practices and new ideas from outside of journalism. To get in touch with Dr. Crittenden, please email him at Letrell.Crittenden@pressinstitute.org or message him on Twitter at @LDeshan.