Three journalism groups are collaborating on a racial equity initiative that goes beyond discussions about diversity and inclusion in newsrooms to a next-level cultural shift focused on dismantling systemic racism.
Amid an ongoing conversation in associations and other organizations about how to move from words to action in combating systemic racism, the Online News Association has partnered with OpenNews and the Maynard Institute in a collective effort to fight for social change in journalism. Vision25: Building Racial Equity in Newsrooms aims to build journalistic institutions where newsrooms are actively anti-racist and collaborative, and journalists of color have a sense of belonging.
The Kerner Commission, formed by President Lyndon Johnson to identify the causes of the 1967 riots, delivered a stinging assessment of the journalism industry for its lack of diversity. More than 50 years later, racial injustice and unrest still permeate the country, and media organizations are still insufficiently inclusive, ONA Executive Director Irving Washington, FASAE, CAE, wrote in a statement announcing the Vision25 initiative.
“We have still failed to diversify our organizations and leadership to adequately represent the breadth of the communities we serve,” he wrote.
After the racial justice protests in cities across America this year, journalists of color spoke out against the racial inequities that persist in their newsrooms. Washington said ONA leaders knew they needed to work at an accelerated pace to address the problem, so they joined forces with OpenNews and the Maynard Institute to form Vision25.
Each of the organizations was fighting for racial equality, but separately. By combining the leadership reach and power of ONA with Maynard’s training in dismantling systemic racism and OpenNews’s expertise in community organizing and support, they could achieve more as a united front, Washington said.
“This movement will require people, action, and resources at scale, and we’re looking to build an alliance of supporters,” he said.
Vision25 references research showing that social change can happen when as little as 25 percent of a population “stand up for an issue … in order to create lasting change.” According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there are approximately 88,000 newsroom employees in the U.S. Vision25 believes if 22,000 U.S. journalists and 25 percent of newsrooms join this movement and take action, positive change will happen.
Instead of working toward a threshold of representation within newsroom staff, which many organizations are already aiming for, Vision25’s goal is “to create an industry threshold that leads to lasting systemic change,” Washington said.
The central role of associations is to advance their industries and help them meet difficult challenges. Dismantling systemic racism “is a top-of-mind challenge right now,” he said. “Associations really have to ask, ‘If it’s not us, who’s going to do it?’” He added, “You don’t have to do it alone.”