The year of journalists taking initiative

“2021 is the year for journalists from all sides of the newsroom to step into the cultural challenge that is a white-washed, male-dominated media industry and walk into a cultural change.”

I hope U.S.-based news outlets are ready because I believe 2021 will be the year of the journalist.

But not just any journalist. I’m talking about the ones who speak truth to power — in their own newsrooms. Journalists who tell stories, and live stories, and live to tell stories. The journalists who make their newsrooms go round, who gather readers and listeners and watchers, who dare to challenge their job description and reach beyond the legacy and into a present and future that requires more of themselves, their teams, their editors, their outlets, and their communities.

2021 is the year for journalists from all sides of the newsroom to step into the cultural challenge that is a white-washed, male-dominated media industry and walk into a cultural change.

It won’t be easy, but they won’t be alone. And they won’t show up empty-handed. These folks aren’t just talented storytellers, strategists, and analysts, but many of them are visionaries and have decided to demand better for themselves. They know the vision they’ve set for their lives and aren’t afraid to exit a gig or a career when it doesn’t match up. Likewise, they’re more willing to chase interesting, impactful work — not dollars and corporate kingdoms.

They’ve begun to look at their careers strategically, learning how to navigate politics that have forever excluded them, learning how to communicate even when it’s difficult, learning how to look forward instead of longing for what’s behind them.

And this means they’re armed with the confidence to walk away, and they’re dangerously close already. 2021 is the year that journalists — especially women and journalists of color — defeat their imposter syndrome and make big moves.

While some newsrooms are watching, taking notes, pivoting, and preparing, others are oblivious, putting too much faith in empty words and public displays of apology. The journalists who will own 2021 are the ones who demand real action — not just real answers — from their managers, newsrooms, and even from themselves.

What are you doing to not just diversify our coverage but be inclusive of voices that don’t sound like yours? Why are you siloing out “diversity beats” as if DEI isn’t the entire newsroom’s job? What practices do you have in place to foster and execute on ideas and innovation? What potential do you see in me, and how will you help me reach it?

I dare you, newsrooms, managers, executive leaders, to have the answers and the actions.

What we don’t want in 2021 is a mass exodus of incredible talent, all because fill-in-the-blank is the way we’ve always done it. And the year of the journalist will get us partly there. The question: Will leadership support the revolution by giving permission and getting out of the way — which has gotten us nowhere — or by amplifying the cause and then getting in to push it forward?

Samantha Ragland is a faculty member and director of the Leadership Academy for Women in Media at the Poynter Institute.

I hope U.S.-based news outlets are ready because I believe 2021 will be the year of the journalist.

But not just any journalist. I’m talking about the ones who speak truth to power — in their own newsrooms. Journalists who tell stories, and live stories, and live to tell stories. The journalists who make their newsrooms go round, who gather readers and listeners and watchers, who dare to challenge their job description and reach beyond the legacy and into a present and future that requires more of themselves, their teams, their editors, their outlets, and their communities.

2021 is the year for journalists from all sides of the newsroom to step into the cultural challenge that is a white-washed, male-dominated media industry and walk into a cultural change.

It won’t be easy, but they won’t be alone. And they won’t show up empty-handed. These folks aren’t just talented storytellers, strategists, and analysts, but many of them are visionaries and have decided to demand better for themselves. They know the vision they’ve set for their lives and aren’t afraid to exit a gig or a career when it doesn’t match up. Likewise, they’re more willing to chase interesting, impactful work — not dollars and corporate kingdoms.

They’ve begun to look at their careers strategically, learning how to navigate politics that have forever excluded them, learning how to communicate even when it’s difficult, learning how to look forward instead of longing for what’s behind them.

And this means they’re armed with the confidence to walk away, and they’re dangerously close already. 2021 is the year that journalists — especially women and journalists of color — defeat their imposter syndrome and make big moves.

While some newsrooms are watching, taking notes, pivoting, and preparing, others are oblivious, putting too much faith in empty words and public displays of apology. The journalists who will own 2021 are the ones who demand real action — not just real answers — from their managers, newsrooms, and even from themselves.

What are you doing to not just diversify our coverage but be inclusive of voices that don’t sound like yours? Why are you siloing out “diversity beats” as if DEI isn’t the entire newsroom’s job? What practices do you have in place to foster and execute on ideas and innovation? What potential do you see in me, and how will you help me reach it?

I dare you, newsrooms, managers, executive leaders, to have the answers and the actions.

What we don’t want in 2021 is a mass exodus of incredible talent, all because fill-in-the-blank is the way we’ve always done it. And the year of the journalist will get us partly there. The question: Will leadership support the revolution by giving permission and getting out of the way — which has gotten us nowhere — or by amplifying the cause and then getting in to push it forward?

Samantha Ragland is a faculty member and director of the Leadership Academy for Women in Media at the Poynter Institute.

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