Celebrating an ‘Upward’ path for leaders of color in NC media

By Shannan Bowen, executive director

I know six more people who are well-equipped for leading newsrooms in our state. They’re the recent graduates of the Upward NC leadership development program for media professionals of color, sponsored by the NC Local News Workshop and designed and led by Emma Carew Grovum.

We held a closing ceremony in January for the program participants, their managers and executives from their organizations. 

Program participants include:

  • Lars Dolder, editor of The News & Observer’s Insider
  • Jamila Elder, assignment editor at WRAL
  • Kendrick Marshall, service journalism editor at The Charlotte Observer
  • Dante Miller, community engagement producer, WFAE
  • Sarah Mobley Smith, senior editor of WFAE’s race and equity team
  • Jade Packer, Director of Children’s Media & Education Engagement at PBS North Carolina

The program is part of the Workshop’s Media Equity Project, which aims to support, improve and further diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in media companies across the state. This year the project focused on hiring and retention. We had heard from leaders across the state about their desire to hire and retain leaders of color, and we also heard from journalists of color about their challenges in upward mobility in their organizations and in the state overall.

I reached out to Carew Grovum, a friend and colleague who I actually met through a leadership development program years ago. She had completed a fellowship through the Reynolds Journalism Institute at University of Missouri, through which she created the Upward program. After learning more about the Upward program, I thought it would be a great fit for an ecosystem-wide approach to developing the talent of more leaders across our state. The mission: increase more leaders of color in NC newsrooms.

“No one really teaches journalists to become leaders or even managers,” Carew Grovum said. “It’s important that programs like Upward exist so that more equitable pathways forward can be made clear for journalists and leaders from historically excluded identities.”

The participating fellows of our NC program met as a cohort and individually over six months. They discussed topics like imposter syndrome, project goals, newsroom culture and other leadership development areas. 

“I’m so proud of what we achieved with six journalists of color across these months. I have seen our fellows not just shine and soar, but really grow into their authentic selves as leaders,” Carew Grovum said. “I look forward to watching these folks continue to do great work across North Carolina, better serving audiences and colleagues from historically marginalized and excluded backgrounds. It was my hope to help North Carolina retain these tremendous leaders into the future.”

She said she was especially impressed with the commitment made by each of the partner newsrooms and their leaders. “What we saw in turnout for our graduation learning day only bolstered the evidence of their continued support.”

Indeed, while participation at our closing event was optional for managers and supervisors, each organization had representation beyond the participating fellow—a sign of investment and commitment from organization leaders in their future leaders.

The Workshop is committed to tracking the success of the participating fellows of the Upward NC program, as well as acting on the continued needs across the state for leadership development, hiring and retention. As we collectively work to ensure that underserved and underrepresented communities across the state feel reflected and engaged by our newsrooms, the Workshop will create programs and initiatives that help us get there.

NC Local News Workshop