(Originally posted Jan. 25 on Elon University’s Today at Elon website)
Six leading North Carolina media organizations have joined the NC Local News Workshop at Elon University in a pilot project aiming to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in news and public affairs information for the state’s residents.
The NC Media Equity Project will include: ABC11/WTVD-TV in the Raleigh-Durham area; statewide education policy and news outlet EducationNC; North Carolina’s two largest newspapers (McClatchy’s Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer/Herald-Sun); statewide public television network PBS North Carolina (formerly UNC-TV); and WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR News Station.
The project focuses on joining the participating media organizations as a learning cohort and support network for their efforts to better represent, include and serve North Carolina residents who are Black, Native American, Latino, or LGBTQ, and other stakeholders who have lacked representation or agency in media.
It grew out of national and local conversations in the summer of 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement and a series of other events brought new scrutiny to inequity and representation gaps within media organizations as well as in their content and coverage.
“Having diverse voices producing content for diverse audiences will only make democracy stronger. Our goal is to support news and information providers in achieving their goals of having more diverse and inclusive organizations and producing stories that North Carolinians across all dimensions of diversity can use to inform their lives and decisions they make.” — Rochelle Ford, dean of the School of Communications at Elon University
Guided by veteran news executive and former University of North Texas journalism Dean Dorothy Bland, the cohort will gather in late January for the first of four quarterly sessions involving teams from each partner organization. Partners will learn from one another and from guest experts, and will also set goals for their work together.
Bland also will consult with each organization, and the NC Local News Workshop will facilitate information-sharing, resource development and follow-on plans to extend the project’s lessons to other media organizations statewide.
The NC Local News Workshop, launched in June 2020 and based at Elon’s School of Communications, supports local news quality and access in North Carolina through convening, connecting, and capacity building, with an emphasis on inclusiveness and communities often left out of traditional news.
As the national conversation about race and equity in journalism gained momentum, workshop leaders reached out for individual conversations and listening sessions with Black and Latino journalists, journalism educators, former media leaders and others to hear ideas about North Carolina’s needs.
Melanie Sill, the workshop’s interim executive director, said clear themes emerged from these conversations and the national debate. Among them: Change would require not just long-term commitment but bold action from leadership, including a willingness to change internal practices and culture across organizations.
“When we began reaching out to media leaders to tap their thinking, we learned that several were mounting significant internal efforts,” Sill said. “We are gratified that they agreed to come together for mutual support and to challenge us and themselves to move North Carolina forward.”
Quotes from partners
“We have a moral imperative to represent and affirm the rich, storied diversity of all the communities, viewers, and learners we serve across the state. We’re honored to join this breakthrough initiative to advance more just, equitable, and inclusive practices in every workplace and on every platform.” – Lindsay Bierman, CEO, PBS North Carolina
“The work of diversity and equity and inclusion in the media has been at the heart of the work of EducationNC from the beginning. Our DEI work is intentionally across four dimensions: our people, our organization, in the communities we serve, and in our work to change systems of power.” – Mebane Rash, CEO, EducationNC.
“It is way past time to accelerate our diversity initiatives to realize the directives from both the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act and the 1968 Kerner Commission report. We look forward to leveraging the collective acumen of some of the state’s leading media institutions to promote and expand diversity to reflect the communities we are licensed to serve.” – Joe O’Connor, CEO, WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR News Station.
“Sustainable change efforts take focus, support and accountability. We’re excited about the opportunity to both give and get all of the above as part of this cohort of organizations committed to reflecting the fullness of our communities and shining a light on both the inequalities and injustices in them.” – Robyn Tomlin, President & Editor, The News & Observer/The Herald-Sun
“We’ve learned in recent years how much stronger we are when we work together across media organizations. It’s energizing to join these partners in moving forward to newsrooms and journalism that accurately represent our communities and state.” – Sherry Chisenhall, President & Editor, The Charlotte Observer
“We will serve our multi-platform viewers best when our content, people – on and off camera – and station culture truly reflect the rich diversity of North Carolina. Our team is excited to be part of this ground-breaking project and we know we will learn and grow from the experience.” – Rob Elmore, President and General Manager, ABC11/WTVD-TV