A spark that spread through newsrooms in 2020 seemed to give folks hope. Was it an actual “racial reckoning”? I’m not sure. But I definitely observed shifts in the wind that made me feel like things were going to be different. Things like:
New editors of color being placed at the helms of mastheads.
New roles created to focus on diverse hiring and culture building.
Conversations about race, ethnicity, language, privilege, and POV that grew and shifted and helped shape new policies and style guidance.
Trainers and consultants (sometimes including myself) hired to help white-led organizations through their individual crises.
But it’s no longer 2020. And the flames that flickered in that moment now seem distant and dim. By 2022, it was an entirely different game. News organizations faced economic uncertainty (even more than usual) and many shops laid staff off or otherwise cut costs.
With a recession looming (or is it already here?), with the intensity of 2020 fading, and with budgets drying up, it would be all too easy for newsrooms to slow or entirely stop their investing into diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work.
I desperately hope my prediction for 2023 doesn’t come true. Because journalists of color and staff from all historically marginalized and excluded backgrounds deserve to work in news organizations that do continue to invest in and care about culture building and diverse teams. Because two years of trying to get better wasn’t enough. Because the work of breaking down systemic inequality in the media is far from over.
In my new role at The Marshall Project, my work centers diversity and culture-building by design. But we know not all organizations have a dedicated role for this work.
So here are a few things people at any level of seniority can do to help tank my 2023 prediction next year. I hope you’ll pick one or two things from the list below and get started immediately.
Tips for anyone looking to get started
Step up and step out of your comfort zone. Start building a personal practice of allyship.
Set up a DEIB resources Slack or Teams channel with your coworkers. Use the space to share good reads, tips, and workshop ideas. You can share this checklist as a starter!
Don’t just set it and forget it — be sure to foster conversation and community within your newly created channel!
Join your organization’s DEIB committee, or start one if one doesn’t yet exist.
Share this list with your bosses or leadership team. Remind them why investment in DEIB matters to you, your colleagues, and your audience.
Tips for folks ready to keep the fires burning
Ask tough questions of your leaders and executives during staff all-hands. Don’t just leave it to your colleagues of color to shoulder this burden.
Learn about the practices of being an “upstander” versus a “bystander” and start a conversation with your colleagues about what this would look like in your organization
Work with colleagues to design and present a series of internal lunch-and-learn sessions around topics of inclusion and diversity. Make use of in-house expertise and talent without being extractive and exploitative!
Use whatever privilege, power, or influence you may have to shine a light on colleagues who fly more under the radar — and leave a “paper trail” whenever you can, whether it’s emailing their boss to brag about something great they did, or sharing a compliment with the person publicly during a meeting.
Tips for those who hold influence, privilege, and/or power
If you have budgeting power, invest in DEIB. Whether it’s hiring trainers for your staff, or paying for their memberships to affinity organizations, or sending them to conferences, etc. — if your company and leadership have made active or public commitments, be sure those promises come with a budget.
Stop rewarding toxic behavior. If someone is part of the problem or is actively harming your work culture, it’s time for one or more difficult conversations about that person’s role, growth, and future.
Correct pay inequities. If you need to do a pay equity analysis, that’s often a great place to start! Be as transparent with your teams as you are able to be about criteria, process, and how decisions will be made.
Bring someone to the table with you. Whether it’s someone younger, someone from a different background than you, someone from a different identity group than you, etc. Always be looking for opportunities to help someone else grow and have their voice represented.