PNA Foundation’s “Amplifying Diverse Voices in Your Coverage and Newsroom” Webinar
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Diversity and equality are huge topics of conversation nowadays. Now more than ever, organizations are trying to make anything and everything inclusive for all people. A question many people have been asking is, “How can newsrooms become more diverse? How can those newsrooms bring in more diverse audiences?”
The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA) has been hosting free webinars in their new special diversity series Leading Local: The Media’s Impact on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, sponsored by the Calkins Foundation.
PNA is a company that “advances the business interests of Pennsylvania news media organizations and promotes a free and independent press,” according to the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
On the morning of May 21, groups of people gathered to have a conversation about amplifying diverse voices in news coverage and in the newsroom. Four special guests made it to the event to share their stories and opinions: Chris Baxter, Editor-in-Chief, Spotlight PA; Sandy Clark, Vice President for News and Civic Dialogue, WHYY; John Micek, Editor-in-Chief, Pennsylvania Capital-Star and Estrella-Capital and Hollis Towns, Vice President of Local News Initiatives and Atlantic Regional Editor, USA Today Network.
During an hour-long presentation and conversation, questions like “Why is diversity and equality ‘popular’ now?”, “What is the importance of amplifying various voices,” and “how to attract more mixed audiences,” were discussed.
Baxter commented about the sudden urge to diversify and to ensure equality.
“Part of the shift we are seeing is generational,” Baxter said. “Younger generations are more dominant, not just in reporting positions but also editing and management positions.
“Not to say that other generations are not committed but I get a sense from younger folks that there is less acceptance of the status quo. The ongoing unionization of newsrooms from across the country continues to be a catalyst for this transformation. If reporters are organized and have a unified voice, they can talk about and insist on making these issues first and foremost.
“Nonprofit newsrooms, diversity and equity are part of the demand from our readers, in service to the public, and their funders.”
Clark shared her perspective on the importance of amplifying diverse voices.
“Last year was the thing that made so many news organizations wake up,” Clark said. “I'm not trying to make more ‘woke’ people.
“If we are trying to meet the mission of journalism, which is I think where most of us got into this, which is to make a difference and to really have an impact on our communities.
“This isn't about just doing something that we think is nice, this is really about meeting the mission in this industry to make this kind of a change.”
The panelists began discussing what their specific newsrooms and news organizations are doing to be more inclusive and how that change has affected their team. Micek expressed what he and his team are doing to promote diversity for Pennsylvania Capital-Star and Estrella-Capital.
“Everything we do from the way we write headlines to the op-eds (opinions and editorial page); we select for the commentary section to the voices that we include in the coverage,” Micek said. “It is a very deliberate effort on our part, and we make sure that they are part of everything that we do every single day.
“We don't talk to transgender individuals simply because we are doing a transgender orientated story, but because we're talking to them because they are infected by a piece of legislation or a story in some way.
“It's important to have that inclusivity on the site and it comes down to things like headlines or selection of everything else. [Diversity] is included in everything we do and it's something that I talk about with my journalists every day.”
Towns explained some obstacles that come with hiring and creating a diverse staff.
“It depends on the market,” Towns said. “We have three publications: Chambersburg, PA, Lebanon, PA, and York, PA. In central Pennsylvania there are net publications, and we have challenges filling those positions.
“I think it starts with the support system. Anytime you attract someone to a market, there must be a system in place where they will feel nurtured and feel like they’re a part of the community, a part of the organization.
“First and foremost, what we try to do is lay out a foundation where folks feel welcomed and then we connect them with mentors and partner them in that way, so they feel a part of the broader company. The third piece is giving them opportunities to grow, look for opportunities for them to move to that next level and a clear pathway forward.”
He ended stating his opinion on why this way of hiring inclusive workers works well.
“I think if you're able to lay that out very succinctly and clearly in the early days, you can have success,” Towns said. “Not only with people of color, but with top level talent and recruiting them to the organization. That’s what we have done throughout the country.”
There are three more events occurring in May 2021 that will continue the diversity series. For more information about the webinars and how to attend them, visit Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association’s website at https://panewsmedia.org/events/.
Emily McGlynn is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.