Five Actions The Inquirer Should Take Next

This letter was sent to leadership and the newsroom on June 8, 2020. The response from the publisher is here. The Inquirer’s progress on the actions in this letter is documented here.

Thank you for hearing us. Thank you for recognizing that we have much work ahead to address our structural issues.

We, The Inquirer’s journalists of color, need to play a role in that work, but it is not solely our work. Everyone must be involved, but it is your responsibility to create real change. We are uninterested in participating in more meaningless “conversations.”

It is time to act. We appreciate that you are working on a new plan, but this comes after years of broken promises. Forgive us for our skepticism.

And while we understand it takes time to create a thoughtful, comprehensive plan, taking 50 days to create a set of recommendations is deeply disappointing. We are troubled that the company does not have the resources to immediately create the necessary plan, as this is work that should have been completed long ago.

We want a concrete, detailed plan, complete with deadlines and accountability measures. Anything less is just another promise to be broken.

This plan must address specific issues that our journalists of color continue to face. To help, we’ve come up with the following list of five actions that should serve as a starting point.

To be clear: This is not a ransom note. These are not ultimatums.

These are simply five actions we believe must happen to create an equitable newsroom committed to accuracy. We believe you will address these because we take you at your word when you say you hear us.

There is, of course, much more. The plan will be imperfect, and we will stumble as we follow it. But these five actions represent a solid first step.

We look forward to seeing the progress you promise, and to joining you and the entire newsroom in the work ahead.

Signed,

The Inquirer’s sick and tired journalists of color

Five Actions

These five actions are listed in order of immediacy.

  1. We must have a seat at the table if someone will replace Stan. Representatives from our group must be involved in the process and our group should have veto power. The interview process should include an open behavioral interview led by a panel of our representatives, with optional attendance from others. If Stan is to be replaced, this should begin immediately.
  2. We must conduct a pay equity study to identify disparities by race and gender and fix them. This work does not end with simply addressing existing disparities — it should include determining how those gaps came about so we can prevent future ones. This pay review should begin within two months.
  3. We must undertake a comprehensive review of our coverage, past and present. We cannot turn a blind eye to our past mistakes if we are to create the future coverage our communities deserve. An honest review of coverage, led ideally by external experts, should include studying our audience, our sources, our story choices, and our presentation of stories. This audit process should begin within four months and should not be delayed even if beats are reorganized or major news events are happening.
  4. We must undergo substantive training for everyone in the newsroom. Creating an inclusive newsroom and ensuring equitable coverage are not the burdens of journalists of color; they are the responsibility of everyone in the room. Training and reading requirements (e.g., The Race Beat, The Color of Law) should address the specific work we do and beats we cover. Training should begin by the end of the year.
  5. We must commit to adding an editor of color to every desk in the newsroom. This does not absolve white editors and colleagues of the responsibility to ensure equitable coverage. If there is already an editor of color on a desk, we want another one. We recognize, of course, that non-discrimination hiring laws would not allow hiring by race. We don’t want that either. But our processes for hiring, promoting, and restructuring have led to very few editors of color across the newsroom. We must fix those broken processes so every desk adds supervising editors of color.