ONA Weekly #317: “What We Need Most Right Now Is Accountability”

By on July 15, 2020

From the Board: “What we need most right now is accountability”

We recently asked the ONA Board of Directors for their perspectives on journalism’s next move to address systemic racism, discrimination and representation of Black and other journalists of color in the industry. Versha Sherma, ONA Board Secretary and Managing Editor & Senior Correspondent at NowThis, highlighted ways to lead even if you’re not in a “Leadership” position.

What we need most right now is accountability. We know there are systemic problems, we know we need to do better, we know we’re at a turning point for real change: now let’s focus on the follow-through. 

To me, this means accountability for newsroom leaders in particular: hiring managers, decision-makers, the people who have the power to change and shape our industry and elevate Black, Brown, Indigenous and POC voices.

You also don’t have to be in a formal leadership position to push leadership. If you see gaps or problems in newsroom staffing or coverage, flag it. Set a calendar reminder to check in with your teams 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months from now to see what has actually changed. Collaborate to set specific goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs, a language that management understands). Demand reports. I’ve recommended an employer hire Black women in leadership roles, and pushed the resumes of specific Black women over and over again. I’ve heard the lip service that this is an issue management cares about. I want to see the results and I won’t worry about whether I’m being “annoying” or overly pushy when I keep asking: When? 

Seek out allies in your workplace who care about these issues as much as you do. You’ll need them on the days when you’re tired, and they’ll need you, too.

It’s also important to remember you don’t have to start from scratch. Several associations for journalists of color have done the work: check the resources of NAJANABJAAJA, and SAJA. There’s also a newly launched Trans Journalists Association.

We have to hold our peers accountable as well. We can’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations; I’d say if we’re not uncomfortable, then we’re not doing enough. I’ve been in the digital journalism industry for 11 years, and I’ve been the only person of color or woman of color in small newsrooms or at the table. That needs to become the exception and not the rule.

It’s okay to be frustrated with the status quo. Recognize the opportunity we have right now — one of real transformational change. We haven’t seen this kind of sustained, global and national solidarity against racism in decades. The time to push is now. Do the reading, do the work, and keep pushing.

Last week we heard from Anita Li about collaboration to address systemic racism, and before that Student Representative Aiyana Ishmael discussed how unpaid internships widen the opportunity gap faced by young journalists of color.

We’ll see you back here next week for insights from Mandy Jenkins on showing up where others haven’t and listening, asking questions and finding areas where you can make impact.

Nicco Mele’s expert tips for converting paid subscribers

We recently hosted Nicco Mele, co-author of the Digital Pay-Meter Playbook, to discuss best practices for increasing paying readers and limiting dependency on advertisers. The session was part of our Newsroom Playbook Series for senior managers and executives; you can still register to access the session recording and explore the curated resources for inspiration as you craft your strategy.

See who’s coming to ONA Insights: Emerging Tech

We’re excited to add a session on AI in journalism to the lineup for ONA Insights: Emerging Tech, featuring: 

  • John Keefe, Data Journalist and Adjunct Lecturer, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
  • Alyssa Zeisler, Research & Development Chief and Product Lead for Newsroom Tools, The Wall Street Journal
  • Lisa Gibbs, Director of News Partnerships, The Associated Press

You’ll hear from these experts how newsrooms are using automation to expand their coverage and what that means for the future of reporter-editor relationships, hiring decisions and workflow management. Other speakers contributing to the two-day event include:

  • Nonny de La Peña, PhD, Founder and CEO, Emblematic Group
  • Alex Wallace, Head of Media & Content, Verizon Media
  • Paul Cheung, Director of Journalism + Technology Innovation, Knight Foundation
  • Irving Washington, Executive Director/CEO, Online News Association

ONA Insights: Emerging Tech is where journalism meets the latest experiments and creative ways of using technology to engage and grow audiences. Name your own registration price to join us July 29–30, 12-3:30 p.m. EDT / 16:00-19:30 UTC. 

Ethics for producing immersive journalism

Whether you’re just getting started with virtual reality, 360 video and other immersive storytelling tools or have been experimenting for years, it’s important to reflect on and apply journalism’s ethical standards to these mediums. A Guide to Immersive Ethics by Theresa Poulson and Jayson Chesler dives into this complex issue, using case studies from McClatchy, Euronews and the Sacramento Bee to illustrate challenges and solutions.

You can ask Theresa and Jayson about all things immersive ethics on July 29, 1 p.m. ET (UTC–4), during the first day of ONA Insights: Emerging Tech.

Apply to be our Digital Content Consultant

Tell your friends: ONA is looking for a Digital Content Consultant with fluency in WordPress, video production and graphic design. This position will collaborate on our virtual training programs, including significant contributions to ONA20 Everywhere throughout Sept.–Oct. Learn more and apply.

Upcoming events

Career opportunities

ONA’s Career Center is an excellent resource for jobs, fellowships and internships in digital journalism. Recent postings include:

On our radar