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You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

“The best news organizations, those working to secure their place in a rapidly shifting journalism world, will not only recruit more people of color but will work hard to get them to stay by intentionally shifting the culture.”

In 2019, some astute news organizations will think about following in the footsteps of National Geographic magazine, which in a 2018 headline admitted: “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.”

More news organizations should reckon with their historic role in perpetuating racism. In 2019, they will do the work and come to the understanding that racism is a structural problem baked into systems and perpetuated by the way we report and edit stories.

Some news organizations will finally realize that equity is an essential part of a successful business model, while others will continue to uphold the status quo, harming themselves and the news ecosystem by excluding or tokenizing writers of color and other historically marginalized groups from their editorial meetings and platforms.

Some will find success by using curriculum such as the Workplace Integrity Training from the Freedom Forum Institute’s Power Shift Project, which encourages an active cultural shift toward respect and trust rather than just a one-and-done training. Workplace integrity is defined by the course’s creator, Jill Geisler, as “environments free of harassment, discrimination, and incivility and filled with opportunity, especially for those who have traditionally been denied it.”

Other organizations will continue to rely only on diversity training designed for compliance, like those required by many universities and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. These trainings are ineffective in creating true change.

The best news organizations, those working to secure their place in a rapidly shifting journalism world, will not only recruit more people of color but will work hard to get them to stay by intentionally shifting the culture.

Some of the white journalists within these organizations will do the work — reading and self-work, not asking journalists of color to explain and perform free labor for them — to discover what they’ve been socialized to not see. They’ll look in the mirror and prioritize work to become actively anti-racist as an important part of their job as a good journalist and newsroom manager.

In 2019, some news organizations will get serious about culture change and true equity. But many others will continue in the same vein.

Jennifer Dargan is assistant director of Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Ideas Network.

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