June 11, 2020
To our colleagues
Simply: Thank you.
It’s been a trying week for us all, but your actions of support — the 70+ colleagues who offered vacation days to us, the dozens who signed the letter of solidarity, the countless personal messages we’ve each received — have been genuinely heartening.
We are encouraged, too, by the message today from newsroom leadership offering initial deadlines, transparency, and next steps.
We have a lot of work to do to make The Inquirer truly reflect the values and people of the Philadelphia region; knowing you’re willing to put in the work alongside us gives us hope.
To that end, many of you have been asking us how you can best support our combined efforts. When it comes to the systemic change we need to build a better newsroom and company, stay tuned — we will need your help soon.
In the meantime, there are things we can do right now to make a difference as individuals.
Here are five actions we can all take today to unlearn old habits and biases that have been a part of our profession for too long. We don’t expect you to do all of them immediately, but these are first steps that many of us have found useful. We have a duty to continue working on ourselves, and hope you will do the same.
1. Audit your news and social media sources.
How diverse is your reading list? Whom do you follow and retweet? Identify new sources and make more of a conscious effort to amplify other voices.
TRY: Before retweeting a link, search the URL on Twitter and see who else has shared that story.
2. Encourage organizers to construct diverse panels.
When solicited to attend a panel, ask the organizers if any other panelists are people of color or women. Ideally commit to only participating in events where half of the panelists are women and people of color.
If organizers are unable to add additional people, it may come down to you giving up your seat — which we recognize is not easy or feasible in all cases. In situations in which you can, consider whether you can recommend a woman or journalist of color with relevant experience to join or replace you. The goal is to avoid tokenism and promote real balance at events.
TRY: Create a list of other journalists and experts you can suggest when event planners inevitably ask for help.
3. Reporters: Audit your own sources over the last six months.
How many of your sources are Black? Other POC? Women? Identify three new sources and reach out to them now so you have them available on deadline.
TRY: Look through colleges’ faculty pages for experts. And many industries have professional associations specifically for people of color, which may be an untapped resource.
4. Learn more about the racial history of your beats.
Every beat has its history, and we should be well-versed in it. Many books, experts, documentaries, and other sources exist to provide a grounding in the racial histories that continue to shape current events (for example, if you cover criminal justice, see Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow) — there are many ways to learn more about the histories that continue to shape current events. Allow that context to inform our work.
TRY: Start with a quick Google search or even a Google Scholar search for “race [beat topic]” or “racism [beat topic]” and see what’s already out there.
5. Read more about race and journalism.
Outside of our beats, there is more we can all do to learn about race in America and in journalism. These books have been helpful to us in examining and unlearning our own biases; any one of them would be an excellent addition to your anti-racist arsenal:
- Within The Veil: Black Journalists, White Media and Diversity, Inc. by Pamela Newkirk
- Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler
- An African-American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
- The Philadelphia Negro, by W.E.B. Du Bois
These articles are relatively quick reads that illuminate blind spots:
- Why don’t newsroom diversity initiatives work? by Kathleen McElroy
- An interactive guide to ambiguous grammar by Vijith Assar
- From “brute” to “thug:” the demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America
And these films and podcasts go a step further:
- 13th (documentary)
- When They See Us (documentary)
- Code Switch (podcast)
- Seeing White (podcast)
Thank you again so much for your support. We literally cannot do this without you.
Your colleagues at The Philadelphia Inquirer