Another year of empty promises on diversity

“If newsroom leaders and editors were unable to see the magnitude of their failures over the past few years, then even with all of their commitments of 2020, 2021 won’t be any different.”

Have you joined your newsroom’s diversity committee? Are you active in your union? Are you proud of a particular story? Did you write something that you feel accurately reflects the reality of people who have been excluded or misrepresented in American journalism?

Personally, while I’m proud of small things like this, it’s the structural problems that keep me up at night.

It’s been more than 50 years since the Kerner Commission asked American newsrooms to stop seeing news only through “white men’s eyes and white perspective,” yet newsrooms are stagnant in efforts to diversify. Major legacy newsrooms still, in 2020, seem unable to reckon with the fact that they often write their coverage for and to the comfort of wealthy white American cisgender men. And many still seem unable to understand — let alone apologize — for their own history propagating racist and xenophobic myths.

Even the new crop of nonprofit and for-profit digital-first newsrooms, despite being founded in the last two decades, sometimes still look like newsrooms thirty years ago. In a similar vein, public media often looks nothing like the public.

It’s easy for newsrooms to make excuses and statements. As a Black journalist, it’s harder for me to understand how many newsroom leaders can sleep at night knowing that they exist in a state of perpetual failure. If newsrooms don’t look like the communities they serve, the newsroom is failing. If your newsroom doesn’t know who they’re writing for and why, it’s failing.

Journalism as a field has been shrinking for decades, and yet even in its decline, the largest and best-funded outlets in the industry have found little room to reinvent their understanding of mission beyond vague platitudes and mottos. There are many exceptions to this rule, but they’re often underfunded, understaffed, and under-resourced.

2020 has been unique in that unions and journalists of color have forced bosses and editors to publish statements and make commitments. But current newsroom leaders have given no reason to trust them moving forward.

It shouldn’t have taken the death of George Floyd for them to make commitments. It should not be Black newsroom employees who, to the detriment of their own jobs, force the hand of executives who in the past refused to listen. In an ideal world, we find the space and the capital to create our own newsrooms, free of the baggage of intentional exclusion and racism — but that will take time and resources many of us don’t have.

So what will come of the commitments to anti-racism and staff diversity?

Here’s my prediction: If newsroom leaders and editors were unable to see the magnitude of their failures over the past few years, then even with all of their commitments of 2020, 2021 won’t be any different. They are ill-equipped to understand their failures and support their staff in changing their newsroom.

Newsroom leaders at large publications need to be held accountable by journalists, readers, and the broader public. And if they don’t produce results, they need to resign.

Gabe Schneider is co-founder of The Objective and assistant managing editor of Votebeat.

Have you joined your newsroom’s diversity committee? Are you active in your union? Are you proud of a particular story? Did you write something that you feel accurately reflects the reality of people who have been excluded or misrepresented in American journalism?

Personally, while I’m proud of small things like this, it’s the structural problems that keep me up at night.

It’s been more than 50 years since the Kerner Commission asked American newsrooms to stop seeing news only through “white men’s eyes and white perspective,” yet newsrooms are stagnant in efforts to diversify. Major legacy newsrooms still, in 2020, seem unable to reckon with the fact that they often write their coverage for and to the comfort of wealthy white American cisgender men. And many still seem unable to understand — let alone apologize — for their own history propagating racist and xenophobic myths.

Even the new crop of nonprofit and for-profit digital-first newsrooms, despite being founded in the last two decades, sometimes still look like newsrooms thirty years ago. In a similar vein, public media often looks nothing like the public.

It’s easy for newsrooms to make excuses and statements. As a Black journalist, it’s harder for me to understand how many newsroom leaders can sleep at night knowing that they exist in a state of perpetual failure. If newsrooms don’t look like the communities they serve, the newsroom is failing. If your newsroom doesn’t know who they’re writing for and why, it’s failing.

Journalism as a field has been shrinking for decades, and yet even in its decline, the largest and best-funded outlets in the industry have found little room to reinvent their understanding of mission beyond vague platitudes and mottos. There are many exceptions to this rule, but they’re often underfunded, understaffed, and under-resourced.

2020 has been unique in that unions and journalists of color have forced bosses and editors to publish statements and make commitments. But current newsroom leaders have given no reason to trust them moving forward.

It shouldn’t have taken the death of George Floyd for them to make commitments. It should not be Black newsroom employees who, to the detriment of their own jobs, force the hand of executives who in the past refused to listen. In an ideal world, we find the space and the capital to create our own newsrooms, free of the baggage of intentional exclusion and racism — but that will take time and resources many of us don’t have.

So what will come of the commitments to anti-racism and staff diversity?

Here’s my prediction: If newsroom leaders and editors were unable to see the magnitude of their failures over the past few years, then even with all of their commitments of 2020, 2021 won’t be any different. They are ill-equipped to understand their failures and support their staff in changing their newsroom.

Newsroom leaders at large publications need to be held accountable by journalists, readers, and the broader public. And if they don’t produce results, they need to resign.

Gabe Schneider is co-founder of The Objective and assistant managing editor of Votebeat.

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Nikki Usher   Don’t expect an antitrust dividend for the media

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Bill Adair   The future of fact-checking is all about structured data

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Francesca Tripodi   Don’t expect breaking up Google and Facebook to solve our information woes

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Ariane Bernard   Going solo is still only a path for the few

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists will be kinder to each other — and to themselves

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Candis Callison   Calling it a crisis isn’t enough (if it ever was)

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Juleyka Lantigua   The download, podcasting’s metric king, gets dethroned

J. Siguru Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Sam Ford   We’ll find better ways to archive our work

Laura E. Davis   The focus turns to newsroom leaders for lasting change

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Sumi Aggarwal   News literacy programs aren’t child’s play

Kate Myers   My son will join every Zoom call in our industry

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

María Sánchez Díez   Traffic will plummet — and it’ll be ok

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Patrick Butler   Covid-19 reporting has prepared us for cross-border collaboration

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Rishad Patel   From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-believers

Raney Aronson-Rath   To get past information divides, we need to understand them first

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Benjamin Toff   Beltway reporting gets normal again, for better and for worse

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Aaron Foley   Diversity gains haven’t shown up in local news

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Marcus Mabry   News orgs adapt to a post-Trump world (with Trump still in it)

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Astead W. Herndon   The Trump-sized window of the media caring about race closes again

Tanya Cordrey   Declining trust forces publishers to claim (or disclaim) values

Richard Tofel   Less on politics, more on how government works (or doesn’t)

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Cory Haik   Be essential

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

AX Mina   2020 isn’t a black swan — it’s a yellow canary

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting dodged a bullet in 2020, but 2021 will be harder

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Julia B. Chan and Kim Bui   Millennials are ready to run things

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Jennifer Brandel   A sneak peak at power mapping, 2073’s top innovation

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Ben Collins   We need to learn how to talk to (and about) accidental conspiracists

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes   A shift from conversation to action

Mike Caulfield   2021’s misinformation will look a lot like 2020’s (and 2019’s, and…)

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Shaydanay Urbani and Nancy Watzman   Local collaboration is key to slowing misinformation

Stefanie Murray and Anthony Advincula   Expect to see more translations and non-English content

C.W. Anderson   Journalism changed under Trump — will it keep changing under Biden?

Alfred Hermida and Oscar Westlund   The virus ups data journalism’s game

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Annie Rudd   Newsrooms grow less comfortable with the “view from above”

Sue Cross   A global consensus around the kind of news we need to save

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Ashton Lattimore   Remote work helps level the playing field in an insular industry

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls