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 NAJA, NABJ, AAJA, 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.