Diversity and inclusion are every day choices
Our greatest vulnerabilities have been exposed by a relentless global pandemic. Our country's gravest sins were brought into the glaring light of a Memorial Day sun as the final breaths of one man were snuffed out by the inhumanity of another.
Will this be the year when everything changes? Will that change be lasting?
At USA TODAY and Gannett’s 260 other local daily news organizations, we are working hard to document the story as it unfolds.
But our job as journalists does not end at the first draft of history. Far from it.
In exposing wrongs, shining a light on injustices, celebrating good works, curating experts who help identify solutions to our greatest challenges, journalism plays a vital role in creating a brighter future. In sustaining our democracy.
And so, at a time when the impact of quality journalism has never been clearer or in greater demand, thoughtful introspection is required.
There is broad consensus among business leaders and public officials that the values of diversity and inclusion are moral imperatives. There’s a growing understanding that they are equally vital to better 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 don’t reflect the people we serve?
And yet, across the nation, newsrooms continue to struggle with a lack of diversity –– especially in leadership ranks, including some of our own. We must do better.
Diversity and inclusion are choices, not just words.
At Gannett, we are committing to achieving gender, racial and ethnic parity by 2025 and will report our progress annually.
As a whole, our news organization has much work to do to achieve this goal, but there are clear signs of progress among many of our newsrooms, including:
Newsrooms such as El Paso and Corpus Christi in Texas now have majority diverse leadership teams. El Paso’s newsroom is 58% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color). More than half the El Paso newsroom and its entire leadership team is Latino — while Corpus Christi's is 47% diverse with 60% diversity in leadership.
Many of our newsrooms have women in top leadership and management roles. USA TODAY, for instance, is the only major national newspaper with a female editor-in-chief and has a leadership team that is 57% female.
Of the 11 promotions this year into top editor jobs throughout our local network or senior leadership at USA TODAY, eight employees are BIPOC and seven are women.
I want to acknowledge the gaps in these reported demographics. They do not completely represent our diversity nor do they quantify fully how far we must yet go to be truly representative. Specifically, these numbers fail to capture sexual orientation or gender identity. These statistics have not been previously incorporated into our human resource reporting or in the U.S. Census.
Gannett is committed to creating a culture where every employee feels safe, included and championed for their full identity. This week, the company announced important steps to expand our demographic data to be more inclusive by providing employees the opportunity to be heard and voluntarily self-identify as diverse in ways beyond race and ethnicity, such as identifying as LGBTQ.
In addition to setting this important parity goal, we are making significant investments in our coverage of race, equality and social justice.
By the end of the year, we will have created 20 national and 40 local jobs focused on social justice, disparities and inclusion to augment our coverage of race at the intersection of every critical institution, including education, health care, criminal justice and the environment. More than a third of this investment will come from incremental hiring, and the rest will result from a reprioritization of existing reporting and editing resources.
These new hires and jobs serve to underscore our commitment to diverse staffing and news coverage at USA TODAY and our local newsrooms. And it’s a commitment that starts at the top.
“Educating, informing and empowering our local communities is at the core of what our newsrooms do every day. To do this, we must better reflect who we serve,” Gannett CEO Mike Reed said. “I’m committed to providing our journalists with the company support and financial investment necessary to improve the diversity of our news organizations to mirror our communities.”
Today, we reaffirm our mission.
We give voice to the voiceless.
We hold the powerful accountable.
And we will do this with newsrooms that reflect our communities and news coverage that roots out injustice in all forms and lights the path to a more equitable future.
Maribel Perez Wadsworth is president of news at Gannett Media and publisher of USA TODAY. The Savannah Morning News is part of Gannett Media.