Editor’s Note: This column has been updated to reflect the latest newsroom diversity numbers in 2021.
I set out three priorities on my first day at The Arizona Republic: developing data-driven investigative journalism; attract new digital audiences; match the diversity of Arizona.
In three years, our data reporting team has grown from two to five. We more than doubled paid digital subscriptions. And the newsroom, overall, is more diverse than at any time in history.
This is crucial as we seek to better understand the struggles and hopes of our communities. This is crucial as we seek to grow our audience of paying digital subscribers who see themselves reflected in our work. And that’s crucial to our investigative journalism and the topics we choose to focus on.
“There is broad consensus among business leaders and public officials that the values of diversity and inclusion are moral imperatives,” wrote Maribel Perez Wadsworth, news president at Gannett and editor of USA TODAY. , in support of a company-wide initiative to match the diversity of our communities by 2025.
“There’s a growing understanding that they’re just as critical to improving business results. This has always been true, especially in journalism. How can we hope to fully understand the issues and needs of our communities if our newsrooms do not reflect the people we serve? »
The Republic acted urgently.
More than three-quarters of new hires over the past year have been journalists of color, and a large majority were women – following in the footsteps of Republic editorial pioneers such as Maggie Savoy, Venita Hawthorne James, Pam Johnson, Jennifer Dokes and Nicole Carroll.
Our goal is to match a community that is 44% people of color. We are not there yet, but we are making progress, while recruiting the most competent and promising journalists in the labor market.
In 2016, journalists of color made up 20% of La République staff. In July, we reached 38% of the workforce, compared to 34% a year ago. Among managers, that number is 31%, up from 28% last August.
How did we do this?
We reached out to affinity groups within the industry, historically black colleges and universities and Maricopa community colleges, to add candidates for open jobs, internships and scholarships, ensuring that our diversification efforts are broader while also reaching the local community.
We hosted two community advisory groups and a series of discussions with Black and Latino audiences with a mission to build knowledge, trust and empathy. This year, with the help of the Republic’s Diversity Committee, our goal is to expand our Community Advisory Board to include Asians, Native Americans, and Arizona LGBTQ+ as well as veterans, communities rural and urban.
Rapid and strategic change is needed, which is why we created four Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Forces that made recommendations for immediate action and lasting reinvention.
These working groups spent six months developing an organization-wide plan to focus DE&I on recruitment and pipelining, onboarding and retention, community outreach and engagement, and to reflect to new reporting and engagement projects.
The first new feature, Faces of Arizona, launched with profiles of people dedicated to diverse or underserved communities, especially the bright lights among us who don’t have easy access to a wider audience, people like muralist Nyla Lee or community organizer Austin Davis. Kaila White, editor-in-chief of the Republic, leads this initiative.
“Inclusiveness and anti-racism are as much about journalism as they are about the newsroom,” Kim Bui, The Republic’s director of audience innovation, wrote late last year for the University’s Nieman Lab. from Harvard.
To support our efforts, we’ve partnered with national experts from the Solutions Journalism Network, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education to create training modules for cultural awareness and community journalism that address issues and strengthen trust.
This was Bui’s prediction for 2021:
“True inclusion and representation is long overdue and overdue, and sharing power with the public is something the misfits have been calling for for years,” she wrote. “While we’ve been waiting to take over, some of us are worried about being defeated. To our credit, however, our lived experience and propensity for experimentation help us.
It is a priority for The Republic not only to hire journalists of color but also to retain them.
The past has hurt. We recognize this and we recognize the role of our newsroom in this area. I spent the last summer trying to understand the climate inside the newsroom as we moved too slowly toward fairness. I interviewed dozens of former staffers and people who knew Richard Harris, The Republic’s first black reporter. Harris joined the newsroom in 1964, a time when Jim Crow clung to every national institution, including the press.
To move forward, we know we have to be better.
We’ve lost talented reporters, but it’s almost always because those reporters were promoted within our company or advanced in their careers in other national newsrooms, from Portland to Los Angeles to Detroit. and Washington, DC.
We remain committed to our hiring and retention goals.
To meet the challenges of our time, we have created five new reporting and writing positions to focus on equity, solutions and underrepresented communities:
• Daniel Gonzalez reports on immigrants and the lives of next generations and communities of color within our borders. News director Kathy Tulumello hailed Daniel’s two early successes, writing about the black community’s continued distrust of vaccines and a hotel worker who lost her job during the pandemic.
• Debra Utacia Krol, a former Pulliam Environmental Fellow on our team, has moved to a new pace examining how issues such as energy production, environmental pollution and ecotourism affect indigenous communities. His coverage of Oak Flat was eye-opening. She teamed up with Republic multimedia journalist Cheryl Evans and editor Shaun McKinnon. This project is funded by a grant from the Catena Foundation.
• Lita Nadebah Beck leads a new reporting team focused on equity, education, solutions, housing and homelessness which includes new data reporter Ralph Chapoco and the outstanding reporting team of Jessica Boehm and Catherine Reagor. A recent project compared data on rent subsidies and eviction applications and found that landlords who received public funds to help offset tenant nonpayments had applied for hundreds of evictions anyway. One landlord who got help had been ordered not to work in real estate. The team also continues to fight for public records related to tenant assistance.
• Shanti Lerner reports on Arizona’s Latino and Native communities to tell stories centered on the people, places, history and things to do that make this state special. She has an immediate impact with stories like this about Chispa Arizona.
• Joanna Jacobo Rivera has joined our team to lead our outreach and coverage of bilingual and Spanish-speaking homes and communities. She has taught Spanish language media courses in Southern California and has written and edited for La Opinión, Excélsior California and El Nuevo Sol.
To respond to the minds of a changing Arizona, The Republic has added two full-time opinion and culture columnists and expanded our editorial board so that we now have members from the Black, Asian and Latino communities and a balance global membership that truly reflects our community. readers – and potential readers. Along with myself, the board includes Abe Kwok, Joanna Allhands, Elvia Díaz, Greg Moore and Robert Robb, with Phil Boas leading.
This year we have changed the way we cover the police and communities affected by crime.
“Our goal is for the story to be fair to everyone involved and helpful – not harmful – to the communities we cover,” explained Bui, who led the initiative. “But we can miss the mark. It is essential that our newsroom examines how we perpetuate myths or stereotypes, because the potential for further and lasting pain is acute when we exaggerate or misanalyze the details of a crime.
You told us when stories caused undue damage. We have listened and are changing accordingly.”
My inbox is filled daily, and always has been, with those who question us, offer feedback, and demand that we do better. Our communities are filled with passion for progress. You want us to not only get this moment, but to make every moment perfect.
I appreciate your comments.
Greg Burton is editor of The Arizona Republic.