If you’ve come to this page, you probably know that diversifying your staff is the right thing to do. And chances are good – unfortunately – that your organization has at least a few skeptics you’ll have to convince. Luckily, there are many easily accessible studies that prove a positive correlation between racial and gender diversity and innovation, financial returns and customer satisfaction. Most importantly, diversity is core to the mission of journalism: according to the Society of Professional Journalists, journalism that lacks diversity lacks accuracy.
But what does “diversity” really mean? It’s a complex and multifaceted concept that represents different things to different people. When we refer to diversity on this page, we mean diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, socioeconomic status, geography, religion, age, ability and more. Many of these are intersectional. For our purposes, “diversifying” means inviting traditionally underrepresented people to the table.
If that is the desired outcome, the solution appears to be an easy one: hire more underrepresented people, especially women and people of color. But this takes time, and until your newsroom reaches parity with the communities it covers, it’s important to retain and support the minority journalists you have. Focus on mentorship, development and growth opportunities, as well as on building a pipeline for young journalists who may not otherwise have opportunities to break into the field. When hiring freelancers, consult one of the many databases of diverse digital and visual journalists. You can simultaneously improve and diversify coverage by taking advantage of the plentiful resources available today, equipping journalists with style guides from affinity groups and other educational tools designed to reduce the negative impact of unconscious bias.
As mentioned earlier, it can take time to see change in newsroom diversity; when you do, success is easy to measure via a newsroom census. But the numbers are not enough: having the right headcount doesn’t mean employees feel valued or empowered to bring their full selves to work, and it’s important to measure feelings of inclusion, as well. As diversity advocate Vernā Myers puts it: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”