Letter from the Editor: The DI needs your voices

The DI is launching its Inclusion & Engagement Initiative, an effort to bring new voices into coverage of the University of Iowa and Iowa City communities.


Katie Goodale

during Convocation on the Pentacrest on Sunday, August 25, 2019. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Marissa Payne, Editor-in-Chief

For journalism to contribute to the functioning of a healthy democratic society — one in which all members have access to accurate information to use in making sound decisions — it can’t be produced without engagement from the people it serves.

In its history exceeding 150 years, The Daily Iowan has served its readership with a perspective informed by our experiences as Hawkeyes ourselves.

While we are proud that the community embraces the DI as its paper of record, there is work to do to ensure thousands of voices are better represented in our coverage and on our staff. We are launching the Inclusion & Engagement Initiative to expand our reach and to bring new voices into our journalism.

What are our goals?

  • To use the DI as a platform to foster civil discourse in the community, advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion by promoting understanding and acceptance of all community members regardless of identity or background
  • To better represent diverse communities in both the DI’s coverage as well as the DI newsroom
  • To engage DI readers and offer them opportunities to provide feedback on coverage, collaborate on projects, and participate in events
  • To broaden the DI’s reach and impact beyond the UI and campus to the greater Iowa City community

Who will be responsible?

  • An internal board of DI staff members will lead efforts on community outreach and engagement, staff recruitment, community events, news coverage analysis, and story/project planning
  • An external advisory council will provide feedback on community outreach and engagement, news coverage analysis, and leads on story ideas
  • This advisory council provides the DI with guidance but will not have any editorial-making abilities; however, the DI will weigh feedback from the advisory council
  • DI editors will meet regularly with the internal board and external advisory council to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion are consistently at the forefront of the DI’s work

What will this look like in action?

  • We expect story and project ideas to come from this initiative, especially nontraditional or outside-the-box collaboration projects
  • Projects involving underrepresented communities will be the primary focus
  • Some of these projects will allow community members to tell their own stories — or to nominate individuals/groups with stories that should be highlighted — through submissions
  • We will host events — including forums, seminars, panel discussions, and listening posts — to facilitate in-person relationships with the community

It’s on all of us to commit to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the DI, that work needs to be done to ensure all members of our community can see themselves reflected in our newsroom, in the pages of the DI that community members read every day, and in the stories in our TV broadcast.

We don’t want our audience to only hear from us when bad news breaks; we want to build stronger relationships and maintain a presence in the community to produce authentic journalism. Our goals are to shed light on the injustices faced in this area, to bring new voices into our newsroom, and to share the tales of our community’s triumphs with our audience.

By doing this, we hope to open dialogue to promote understanding and acceptance of those living, learning, and working here — regardless of identity. The DI is independent from the university, but we can’t be a comprehensive paper of record for the UI if we do not sufficiently represent as many voices as possible.

It is our responsibility as First Amendment practitioners to use journalism to serve our community by making it more equitable — to give everyone a seat at the table and an invitation to join the conversation.

How can the community participate? Contributing your ideas and voicing your experiences will give this initiative meaning. You might consider:

  • How do conversations about diversity and inclusion affect you?
  • In what ways have your identities shaped your experiences at the UI and in Iowa City?
  • What could be done to foster a better campus climate?
  • Who is leading the way in striving to make the campus Iowa City more diverse, equitable, and inclusive? What can we learn from others in making positive changes?

We want to learn from our audience. Reach out to me at [email protected] or come find us in the DI newsroom, E131 Adler Journalism Building. We welcome your questions and ideas to help us advance the conversation about producing more representative journalism and building a more inclusive community.

Look out for more information in the coming days on the external advisory council and how to further engage with the DI in the newspaper and on dailyiowan.com.