March 2016: Inclusion Solutions

President's Letters l

When it comes to inclusion, we can all do a better job.

It’s a lot like the constant learning that comes with being a journalist.

At the just-concluded NICAR 2016 convention in Denver, I co-facilitated a conversation session sponsored by Knight-Mozilla OpenNews on “Inclusion Solutions.”

We had an excellent discussion, with plenty of ideas. Many of those ideas don’t need managers to make them happen. They just need us to be more aware and supportive of our colleagues.

Here are some of those suggestions:

  • Don’t make assumptions about your coworkers. Be aware of your own privilege when making suggestions to others. Instead of asking someone upon meeting them  “Oh, are you an X (developer, designer, editor, etc.)?” instead ask, “What do you do?”
  • Emphasize civility in disagreement. We may disagree on different issues, but we should never use that disagreement to exclude others.
  • Listen to what people are saying and be supportive of others, especially in meetings. If a coworker repeats an idea initially brought up by someone else, say, “Yes, Sasha’s idea was awesome. Sasha, what do you have to add?” When someone’s abilities are questioned, be vocally supportive of the abilities you know they have.
  • If you’re a manager, speak to your own insecurity so others afflicted by imposter syndrome will realize that they aren’t alone.
  • Consider conversations after the fact. If you hear someone being slighted or talked down to, try “Hey, I noticed this thing happened to you. Does it happen a lot?” Hear someone slighting a coworker, approach them one on one and use no-accusatory language: “I know you didn’t mean this, but that’s something that can be alienating.”
  • Support team members by bearing witness to the issues they face so they aren’t viewed as complainers.
  • Allow people with similarities to create their own spaces. But also reach out to others and include them in your activities — professional or social.
  • If you are a manager and an employee is doing diversity work in your newsroom, make it part of their work instead of a responsibility on top of their job.
  • Don’t wait for a publisher or editor to diversify your coverage — do it yourself. People in communities will notice; the influence will be greater than you imagine.
  • Audit your coverage — for sourcing, for on-air voices — and try to diversify your sourcing.

And some ideas on hiring/applying:

  • Ask applicants to describe a time when they covered marginalized communities.
  • Ask employers about their policies such as parental leave and trans people. It shows employers that such policies are important.
  • Be transparent about your salary — share it with others and share tips on negotiating.
  • Take a risk on potential employees, especially paid interns, who show passion and potential but have limited experience.
  • Consider meeting informally with teams to see how they interact before applying for a job.
  • Include inclusivity in job descriptions.
  • Invite applicants to come in and talk through an idea instead of relying on written materials that may oversell an applicant’s virtues.
  • Expand and broaden your network constantly, not just when you’re looking for someone to hire.
  • Treat people like human beings when they don’t get a job with a personal letter and suggestions for areas to improve.
  • Search out different networks to reach, from coding groups for women or people of color to Craigslist and more.
  • When evaluating job candidates, consider the barriers a diverse candidate overcame to achieve the same qualifications as an applicant with a background of privilege.

These are just some of the highlights — I’d love to hear your solutions on Twitter @fishnette @womenjournos.

—Sandra Fish