As a news organization covering the education of our nation’s children — many of whom grow up bearing the burdens of racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination — we feel a responsibility to clearly and publicly state our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), both for our journalism and within our organizational culture.
Chalkbeat is situated at the intersection of two fields: journalism (the work we do) and education (the work we cover).
- Historically, the voices of people from marginalized communities — particularly people of color and people from lower socio-economic statuses — have not been prioritized by the media. They have not been proportionately represented in the ranks of newsroom staff or the stories that newsrooms produce.
- Chalkbeat’s education coverage is centered around the nearly 30 million American public school students living at or below the poverty line, many of them students of color.
Journalism and education both have a history of systemic racism, which we must acknowledge, reflect upon, and work to dismantle in order to be successful in our work. Here, we seek to define DEIB at Chalkbeat, summarize what we’ve done thus far, state the changes we intend to achieve, and provide an overview of the work we’re undertaking to meet our goals.
As an organization that values language and word choice, we want to be precise when we talk about DEIB at Chalkbeat. We’re grateful to the University of Washington for its glossary of relevant terminology and have adapted our first three definitions below from the guide.
- Diversity: Encompassing a wide range of identities, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexuality, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, veteran status, physical appearance, political ideology, life experiences, etc.
- Equity: Fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while acknowledging that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.
- Inclusion: An environment in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued as a fully participating member; one that embraces differences and respects all people.
- Belonging: The feeling that an individual is an important member of a group; that one readily identifies as a member of the group and feels a sense of connection, security, and affinity within it.
OUR WORK SO FAR
In February 2019, Chalkbeat began convening people from throughout the organization who are committed to DEIB. A diverse, cross-functional group quickly identified the need to address DEIB-related issues both in terms of Chalkbeat’s journalism and organizational culture.
In June 2020, Chalkbeat CEO Elizabeth Green issued a pledge to our readers committing Chalkbeat to the fundamental value of antiracism in our coverage and in our organizational culture.
Where we started with our journalism:
- We deployed a working group to audit our “How I Teach” and “First Person” features to learn more about the voices we are amplifying.
- We updated our internal style guide. Language matters, and our compendium provides guidelines to help ensure we’re writing respectfully and inclusively.
- We emphasized our precision in the language we use in our stories at Chalkbeat.
- We stepped up our work to engage diverse voices in our journalism by increasing spot surveys and callouts around topical issues, hosting Listening Tours in 2018 and 2019, and experimenting with new forms of outreach by expanding our team to include a community engagement strategist.
- Our newsroom staff participated in the Maynard Institute’s Fault Lines diversity training session to combat systemic racism in journalism.
Where we started with internal culture:
- We launched a search for a chief people officer, a non-traditional move for a journalism organization that recognizes the central role that people, culture, and DEIB play in our work.
• In January 2020, Jennifer Bramble, Chalkbeat’s first chief people officer joined the organization, and our DEIB work has truly taken off under her leadership, including the creation of a formal DEIB Task Force.
- We set a goal to diversify our board and welcomed three new board members in 2020.
- We focused on inclusion in the workplace through efforts such as:
• Adding new kinds of questions and analysis to our annual all-team survey to help us know how we’re doing.
• Launching a buddy program to welcome new hires and a mentorship program to support early-career employees.
• Inviting an external consultant to conduct staff training on unconscious bias and allyship.
- As Chalkbeat has more than doubled in size, we’ve prioritized diversifying our staff to reflect the communities we cover. Five years ago, in 2016, our staff was 26% people of color; in May 2021, people of color made up 45% of our team. More than half of Chalkbeat’s all-female leadership team are women of color.
We’ve come a long way, but there is still work to be done. Here’s what we intend to do going forward:
1. Strengthen Our Journalism
- Continue to provide antiracism training to our staff designed to support reflection, growth, and planning as equity leaders.
- Increase the number of people of color and those from other marginalized backgrounds who engage with Chalkbeat.
- Work with the Reynolds Journalism Institute to develop a tool that will efficiently track the diversity of our sources, as we hold ourselves accountable for representing diverse voices from the communities we serve.
2. Create an Inclusive Culture
- Build teams that represent our Chalkbeat communities by developing diverse recruitment pipelines and implementing hiring practices that eliminate bias.
- Create and cultivate Employee Resource Groups within Chalkbeat.
- Develop and sustain programs to support new and early-career employees (e.g., onboarding buddy program and mentorship matching).
- Implement an anonymous platform for staff to share feedback, questions, and concerns.
3. Increase Visibility and Awareness
- Continue to be transparent with work we are doing, through Inside Chalkbeat posts and updates to the About Us section of our website.
- Publicly describe in detail our progress to becoming a more diverse and representative organization given the communities we cover, especially given the systemic racism and lack of DEIB in the nation, in journalism, and in education.
Chalkbeat is committed to DEIB within our organization and in our journalism. We understand DEIB work continues to evolve, and Chalkbeat will evolve with it. We seek to own our shortcomings, continuously improve in our efforts, and act with integrity and transparency as we learn and evolve. For the next phase of our journey, our staff developed a DEIB scorecard — a tool we use to assess our success in priority areas — that can be accessed here.
If you have any questions about Chalkbeat’s DEIB initiatives, please feel free to contact Jennifer Bramble, Chalkbeat’s chief people officer, at email@example.com.