Summary of findings and Index scores
Explanation of Index scores – Need for results + infrastructure
The following scores are based upon our Inclusion Index. A copy of the rubric for our Index can be found here.
API’s index is based on measurements of seven key areas we feel are essential to building a strong connection with communities of color within an ecosystem.
- Strong diversity within newsrooms
- Strong inclusivity or belonging among newsroom workers of color
- Avoidance of stereotypical coverage of communities of color
- Strong engagement with communities of color
- Development of strong trust of local newsrooms held by communities of color
- Understanding of the key community assets essential to communities of color
- Creation of strong infrastructure designed to support DEIB efforts inside and outside the newsroom.
In our assessment, we have guidelines within our rubric for the scoring of the first six categories. But the seventh, infrastructure, is the final evaluative metric used for the first six categories. Simply put, efforts to develop remedies to the first six areas will not have sustained success unless a newsroom builds systems of change into everyday practices and ensures that such efforts receive the human and financial resources necessary to ensure their ongoing operation.
For example, if the goal is to do better community engagement, what everyday practices have been built into your newsroom’s routines that allow this to happen on a regular basis? If the goal is to improve the diversity of your sourcing, what steps have been taken to track and evaluate the sources you typically use within your work? If the goal is to improve the diversity of applicant pools, what specific systems have been put in place during the hiring process to boost diversity among candidates? And in all cases, how are you routinely evaluating the success of these practices, and what steps are being taken to build on successes?
Index ranking explanations
In terms of assessment, we base our scores on a scale of one to five.
- At the bottom of the scale, we consider efforts that are virtually nonexistent to be reflective of invisibility. In this sense, efforts simply do not exist.
- A score of two represents tokenism. Some efforts may have been taken, but they represent the bare minimum in terms of effort. No real infrastructure exists, and efforts are inconsistent.
- Level three represents toleration on our scale. In this scenario, we find that the newsroom has some respect for the need for DEIB work and has some strong features in place. But in our assessment, much more could be done to improve efforts and build systems. Work is done, but the newsroom still lacks a full dedication to it.
- A score of four represents acceptance of the need for change. Newsrooms have taken many steps toward building sustained DEIB efforts, and it has been embraced that these efforts are necessary for the everyday functioning of the newsrooms.
- The top score, five, represents the ideal newsroom, one where all news workers and community members feel they can thrive within a respective newsroom or news ecosystem. DEIB is built into all systems, relationships are sound, news coverage is representative and few to no problems related to DEIB exist inside or outside of the newsroom.
*(While only five newsrooms participated fully in this endeavor, because much of the information comes from community voices and from past studies, this should be considered a partial meta-analysis of the entire Pittsburgh ecosystem. Specific reports on each newsroom were produced, but per our agreement, will remain private to each newsroom.) These scores all represent our assessment of the cohort as a whole.
Diversity – 2.5**
If you continue to do things the same way, you’re going to always get the same results. And I suspect that the newsrooms are going to look the same, because they’re doing the same thing, because they’re protecting their little empire, I guess.
– Community resident on lack of newsroom diversity
While in the cohort newsrooms in many cases are close to parity with Allegheny County, newsrooms freely admit they could do more to bring in more journalists of color. In terms of percentage, newsrooms are not much more diverse than they were during the 2016 PBMF audit. Newsrooms with openings over the past two years largely failed to bring in diverse candidates. They also lack strong plans for recruiting diverse talent. Additionally, even when there are diverse internship programs in place, these internships rarely result in full-time positions. For this to change, newsrooms will have to rethink how they recruit candidates of color. Doing the same thing, as noted above, will not yield changes.
Diversity in internships. Across the board, the professional newsrooms in this cohort have emphasized hiring diverse interns. Each newsroom has had diverse interns over the past two years, and, in some cases, multiple interns of color. This is highlighted by the internship program at the Tribune-Review, which provides scholarships to promising high school students of color, who subsequently intern in the newsroom during summer breaks. Additionally, all four professional newsrooms had interns of color at some point in 2022, and in some cases more than one.
Failure to hire diverse staff in recent searches. Professional newsrooms noted that they struggled to hire diverse candidates during recent hiring cycles. In some cases, diverse candidates were finalists, but ultimately opted for other positions. Salary and concerns over working and living in Pittsburgh were cited as reasons that candidates opted for other opportunities.
Lack of concrete hiring plans/local pipelines. While all newsrooms have made strides in hiring more diverse talent, they lack — for the most part — coherent recruitment plans. In many cases, recruiting efforts are passive. At best, such efforts focus on advertising with affinity organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists or the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, or tagging these organizations during job searches. Newsrooms are not building long-term relationships with journalists, recruiters or universities that can specifically bring them a steady stream of diverse candidates. While newsrooms have talked about creating local pipelines, most have not taken steps to do so. An exception, as noted, is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
High turnover rate among staff members of color. As noted in the CJR study, and as highlighted recently by several high-profile departures from newsrooms, journalists of color often do not stay long within Pittsburgh newsrooms. In some cases, they move from newsroom to newsroom. But in most cases, journalists only stay in the city for a short period before departing. Some of this is related to factors outside of the newsroom, related to Pittsburgh’s quality-of-life issues for people of color, notably Black women. But this high turnover has been a hindrance to sustaining diversity within the newsroom.
**The findings in this category are based on cohort member newsrooms.
Inclusion – 1.5
I think people need to be in an environment where they feel comfortable expressing who they are without having to worry about any type of consequences.
I think people need to be in an environment where they feel comfortable expressing who they are without having to worry about any type of consequences.
– Former Pittsburgh reporter, as cited in CJR
The Pittsburgh news ecosystem has had a large number of internal disputes go public. While we will not report on our findings about individual newsrooms for this public-facing report, per our agreement with them, many newsrooms over the past several years have seen their internal conflicts become top stories for market competitors. Staff members in Pittsburgh newsrooms who have come forward publicly have addressed concerns over low pay, burnout, harassment, identity-focused discrimination and poor communication.
Internal diversity committees. A number of newsrooms have internal diversity committees to look into issues related to DEIB. These groups have already had some success in addressing major issues. For example, as was highlighted in its public presentation, the diversity program established by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was developed by its diversity committee. But there is more these groups could do to advocate for change. We feel they should meet more frequently and take on more challenges, particularly with regard to internal culture and community engagement.
Lack of routine newsroom-wide conversations or training around DEIB or internal culture. Even with the recent so-called racial reckoning in America, newsrooms in this cohort have, for the most part, failed to implement DEIB staff training, nor have they held regular conversations related to DEIB across the newsroom. If conversations happen, they are limited to editors, or select silos within the newsroom. Work from existing DEIB committees has not resulted in larger conversations across the newsrooms.
Burnout. Workload management and burnout were common themes. While some newsrooms have wisely implemented efforts to deal with mental health, each newsroom should take stock of how employees are dealing with the stress related to their everyday work, particularly in newsrooms that have experienced downsizing or are otherwise understaffed. All newsrooms should invest in mental health wellness programs, and structure routine check-ins with employees to gauge how they are feeling about their work/life balance.
Lack of formal mentorship. Many newsrooms have younger reporters, yet the amount of mentorship they receive from senior staff members is imbalanced. Each newsroom should consider developing or redeveloping mentorship programs that have higher degrees of contact among staff members. These connections should focus on both work and work/life balance issues. Training on best practices should also be made readily available to not only junior staff, but all staff members.
Concerns over compensation. Another issue expressed repeatedly related to salaries. Many workers feel they are not earning enough, especially as staff cutbacks have increased workloads.
No formal policies for addressing grievances of frontline workers. Newsrooms lacked clear-cut policies on how employees can file concerns, or what happens with concerns once they are raised. Newsrooms mentioned that “open-door” policies existed but had no clear guidance on what happens with concerns, or how conflicts are resolved.
Representation – 2.0
I also don’t think that they do a great job at covering any stories besides negative stories. Black issues are really just oftentimes covering trauma, and covering horrible incidences of things that have happened. And there’s just a ton of examples.
– Black resident of McKeesport
There are two parts of understanding a newsroom’s representation of a community. One involves assessing the actual content produced by a newsroom. The second is understanding how a community perceives coverage by newsrooms of their communities. Even if a newsroom is trying to cover communities differently, this may not have an impact if community members do not notice the changes.
Our own analysis of individual newsrooms is private to each one, per our agreement with them. However, other studies in the past have shown a clear tendency of some newsrooms to overemphasize crime coverage and sports coverage of communities of color. We also found that newsrooms tend to rely on official sources for stories. Newsroom employees were also often critical of their own coverage, stating that they don’t do a good job of getting out and covering everyday experiences among communities of color — a view also held by community members. Newsrooms across the board have not conducted their own audits of content, and no newsroom has a formal way of collecting and tracking diverse sources.
Engagement – 1.5
There’s a lot of good that doesn’t get covered. Because again, if you’re not engaging with the community, then you don’t know what’s happening in the community, except at that moment where you go to cover that story. And if you’re more engaged, then you’re aware of other things that are happening that are good stories.
– Pittsburgh resident on engagement
Routine efforts to engage African Americans and other communities of color in Pittsburgh are virtually nonexistent. Newsroom workers suggested that most efforts were rare, and community members lamented that they would rarely see reporters in their communities or covering their organizations. Simply put, in most cases, newsrooms lack contemporary methods of directly engaging communities of color.
Some basic work was being done. Then the pandemic hit. Most newsrooms have conducted engagement-type work in the past, notably prior to the pandemic. Some community events were held. Some set up tables at public events to personally engage with their communities. This work, however, was not routine. And then it was impeded by the pandemic. Newsrooms also have individuals who work in audience engagement to varying degrees, though in most cases this work is focused on data and not on direct engagement with community members.
Newsrooms lack the types of direct community engagement teams or investments used by newsrooms across the nation today. Most newsrooms do not have a distinct team focused on community engagement outside of social media. They do not actively get out into the community to attend meetings or meet people. They do not have community advisory boards that can provide feedback. Systems do not exist for feedback from community members given through digital media. Newsrooms also do not hold events on a regular basis with community members, they do not conduct surveys or focus groups, nor do they find ways to work in the community as a means of being present. This type of engagement work is necessary to build trust, but it requires an investment of time and other resources.
It is possible, however, that the newsrooms in this cohort could find ways to collaborate on some macro-level engagement efforts (community events/listening sessions, community advisory boards, community asset maps and information needs assessments), while attempting to build out internal engagement infrastructures. But this work is essential for all newsrooms in the Pittsburgh ecosystem, especially given the very significant trust gap that exists between Pittsburgh newsrooms and communities of color.
Newsrooms are not given time to do engagement. Probably the biggest hindrance to engaging community members is that reporters feel they do not have the time to get out into the community and simply listen. When reporters are out in the community, the expectation is that they will be working on stories. There are no policies or incentives to have reporters simply get to know community members or follow up with people they have interviewed in the past outside the scope of a story. The lack of follow-up was noted by several community members, and helped fuel the resentment these citizens had for the approaches of local newsrooms. In this sense, the newsrooms are acting in an extractive manner with their communities. They go in to mine stories, but they fail to return once the story-gathering process is complete. This work, however, is possible with greater investment of time toward engagement work.
There are no newsletters or other materials designed for communities of color. Another area for potential improvement is in newsletters and other niche news products directed toward specific communities. Several newsrooms across the nation have had great success with building newsletters to serve communities of color. Newsrooms can often use existing materials to develop such products. Cohort newsrooms in some cases have newsletters, but they are not specifically targeted toward communities of color. This is also a potential area for collaboration.
Trust – 1.0
You probably are familiar with Wendy Bell, but a lot of the controversy around some of the things that she said, in regards to black residents, Black Lives Matter and things like that are very offensive and problematic and racist at the end of the day, and they took a very long time to get rid of her on the radio. And so that definitely was a deterrent for me.
– Pittsburgh resident on trust level for local media
It would be like me having faith in the government to change or, you know, policing.
– Black community activist on why he thinks local media will never serve communities of color.
The lack of engagement, combined with numerous, often nationally recognized racial and cultural incidents across multiple newsrooms, has eroded trust for the Pittsburgh news media ecosystem among communities of color. It is not an exaggeration to say that Pittsburgh media has had multiple controversies involving the representation of communities of color every year going back eight years. These include multiple controversies involving anchor and commentator Wendy Bell, multiple problematic columns and editorials, the very public sidelining of Alexis Johnson and Michael Santiago at the Post-Gazette during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in Pittsburgh, the mislabeling of journalists of color in a video recording of a forum on race and media, and stories, disputed by local police, that inaccurately said the victim of a police shooting was seen firing a weapon before he was killed.
Newsrooms need to understand that communities often view the media as a collective. The sins of one become the sins of others. In our interviews, television news loomed large in the minds of people interviewed, but they rarely offered favorable opinions of other news outlets, or referred to them as “trusted.” Even when positives were discussed, the emphasis was often on specific journalists — often of color — as opposed to entire newsrooms. For this to be overcome, the newsrooms collectively need to do a better job with community engagement, representation and balance in coverage and hiring more diverse staff and helping staff members to thrive. Newsrooms must also have a strong understanding of key community assets essential for telling the full stories of communities. In short, dealing with the other issues related to the Index are essential for building trust.
Newsrooms must also recognize the need to be open and transparent about their approaches, which can differentiate them and build trust. Explainer posts on a homepage detailing how the newsroom makes decisions about stories, sources and other items may help with this differentiation.
More specifics related to trust will be relayed within individual reports.
Assets – 1.0
Asset mapping is a more complex tool used to understand communities. For our purposes, it is a process of understanding and tracking the key influencers, organizations and sites of communication within a community. Producing an asset map can be done several different ways, including the example demonstrated in this video. In all cases, significant research about a community must take place before a map is produced. It is not often deployed by newsrooms. But due to the lack of source tracking and engagement, there is little evidence that precursory work toward asset mapping is in place.
Infrastructure – 1.5
Newsrooms across the board lack systems and processes to do DEIB work. There are no recruiting systems, no newsroom inclusivity systems, no systems for better representation, no systems for engagement and no evidence of asset mapping. For efforts to work and be sustained amid job transitions, role turnover and demographic change within the community, these systems must be created along with the improvements geared toward DEIB.
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