A shift from conversation to action

“We cannot truly consider ourselves stewards of public trust and information if we aren’t embodying equity at every level. In 2021, journalism will get its shit together.”

Bright light can be unforgiving.

For years, journalists of color have been working to illuminate the systemic racism that our field has been content to keep hidden. In 2020, the spotlight was glaring. From Philadelphia to Los Angeles, very candid, very public declarations from journalists of color about their experiences working in this industry exposed a painful part of our collective reality.

In 2021, we will see a shift from conversations about the grave inequity faced by journalists of color, particularly women journalists of color, to actions that address these structural inequities.

This year’s JOC tweet threads and columns and websites were a rallying cry for change and accountability. More than a few media executives were shown the door — either because that ousted person was actually problematic, or because something unacceptable happened under their watch and someone had to take the fall. In some instances of masthead turnover, there were other demands — lists drafted by journalists of color — for measures that create environments of belonging and for behavior change.

In 2021, these lists must be front and center in the push towards more equitable structures. If we could speak it into existence, 2021 will be the year when newsroom leadership will start doing the hard work — whether by choice and good intention, or economic and social pressure — that it takes to make our industry more equitable.

This must include industry leaders being more proactive than reactive. Diversity and inclusion conversations and interventions — almost always focused on numbers, compliance, and representation — will instead zero in on the policies, people practices, and workflow that enable real equity in a newsroom.

This will mean, for example, conceptualizing equity as something not separate from paid parental leave policies and the health benefits offered to employees. This is the year we see DEI resources invested in legal and IT to protect and support reporters targeted by online violence and abuse, which disproportionately impacts women and women of color. An equitable structure demands honesty and transparency and calls out racism and oppression, both overt and systemic, and builds power and momentum towards achieving goals while encouraging the grace and humility to sustain the endeavor. (Shout out to PolicyLink for the inspiration for Resolve Philly’s definition of an equitable structure.) 2021 will force newsroom leaders to address how they are — or aren’t — meeting these demands.

There is a tectonic shift happening in which people are speaking their truths and media companies are called to task to answer. There really is no other option here. We cannot truly consider ourselves stewards of public trust and information if we aren’t embodying equity at every level. In 2021, journalism will get its shit together. For the sake of democracy. For the sake of our economic future as an industry. For the sake of the communities we serve. For the sake of the people we employ.

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes are the co-executive directors of Resolve Philly.

Bright light can be unforgiving.

For years, journalists of color have been working to illuminate the systemic racism that our field has been content to keep hidden. In 2020, the spotlight was glaring. From Philadelphia to Los Angeles, very candid, very public declarations from journalists of color about their experiences working in this industry exposed a painful part of our collective reality.

In 2021, we will see a shift from conversations about the grave inequity faced by journalists of color, particularly women journalists of color, to actions that address these structural inequities.

This year’s JOC tweet threads and columns and websites were a rallying cry for change and accountability. More than a few media executives were shown the door — either because that ousted person was actually problematic, or because something unacceptable happened under their watch and someone had to take the fall. In some instances of masthead turnover, there were other demands — lists drafted by journalists of color — for measures that create environments of belonging and for behavior change.

In 2021, these lists must be front and center in the push towards more equitable structures. If we could speak it into existence, 2021 will be the year when newsroom leadership will start doing the hard work — whether by choice and good intention, or economic and social pressure — that it takes to make our industry more equitable.

This must include industry leaders being more proactive than reactive. Diversity and inclusion conversations and interventions — almost always focused on numbers, compliance, and representation — will instead zero in on the policies, people practices, and workflow that enable real equity in a newsroom.

This will mean, for example, conceptualizing equity as something not separate from paid parental leave policies and the health benefits offered to employees. This is the year we see DEI resources invested in legal and IT to protect and support reporters targeted by online violence and abuse, which disproportionately impacts women and women of color. An equitable structure demands honesty and transparency and calls out racism and oppression, both overt and systemic, and builds power and momentum towards achieving goals while encouraging the grace and humility to sustain the endeavor. (Shout out to PolicyLink for the inspiration for Resolve Philly’s definition of an equitable structure.) 2021 will force newsroom leaders to address how they are — or aren’t — meeting these demands.

There is a tectonic shift happening in which people are speaking their truths and media companies are called to task to answer. There really is no other option here. We cannot truly consider ourselves stewards of public trust and information if we aren’t embodying equity at every level. In 2021, journalism will get its shit together. For the sake of democracy. For the sake of our economic future as an industry. For the sake of the communities we serve. For the sake of the people we employ.

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes are the co-executive directors of Resolve Philly.

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