Building Better Newsrooms

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from May 4 for more from the Workshop, including more on the 2022 Diversity Audit, industry news and applause for journalists statewideSign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Shannan Bowen, Executive Director

The Workshop is partnering with UNC’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media on a series of workshops, conversations and events about workplace resilience. We hope to convene people around ideas for improving newsroom jobs, policies and structures. I agree with CISLM director Erica Perel that sustainability isn’t just about business models. As Erica said so eloquently, “Making local journalism jobs themselves more sustainable—better pay, hours, working conditions and opportunities for growth across media and ownership types—is also important to the future of local news.”

We’re calling this series “Workplace Resilience: Building Better Newsrooms.” We kicked it off in March at our NC News & Information Summit with a session titled “The Care and Feeding of Early-Career Journalists.” Future sessions will include topics such as pay and benefits in local newsrooms; the rise of labor unions; better work design, combating online harassment; and more equitable practices for freelance/contract work. Learn more.

The 2022 Diversity Audit for NC Newsrooms

CISLM and the Workshop are also partnering on at least one more major initiative for our state: The 2022 Diversity Audit for NC Newsrooms. We seek to survey all news outlets, regardless of size, location or media platform. The research, designed by CISLM Research Director Jessica Mahone, will be used to guide programming to help newsrooms make progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, and provide benchmarking newsrooms can use.

The need for the diversity audit became clear through our pilot NC Media Equity Project in 2021, during which six of our state’s media companies worked to create more equitable newsrooms to better serve their communities. We learned a lot from that program, including that there’s a lot about the diversity of our newsrooms and their coverage areas that we do not know from a state-level view. We also learned that we need to have better benchmarking to help our newsrooms create achievable and actionable plans to work toward their goals.

The Workshop has also joined dozens of organizations in signing a letter written by OpenNews to call on the Pulitzer Prizes committee to add a requirement starting in 2024 that states: “In order to be eligible for a Pulitzer Prize, a news organization must publicly share data about staff demographics.” The letter comes after Nieman Lab reported in April that there was resistance to participate in the News Leaders Association’s annual diversity survey.

We know a statewide survey of this type is ambitious. But it’s needed to ensure we are all working to ensure newsrooms represent their communities through their teams, policies, coverage, sourcing and more. The audit will include two surveys: one for organizations and one for individuals. It will include both news and non-news staff at news organizations. The surveys will be quantitative in nature and will cover racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and disability diversity. Where applicable, US Census categories will be used to give the data more comparison points. The goal is to establish baseline data, not assess opinions or attitudes of the staff. Sign up for updates on our survey here, especially if you are the contact person for your newsroom or would like to take the survey for individuals.