Letter from the Editor | How we plan to diversify our newsroom

We know one apology won’t mend all relationships, but we hope being transparent about our progress in diversifying our newsroom is a good first step.

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Jenna Galligan

The Daily Iowan is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.


We’re sorry.

We know our past coverage and lack of diversity has harmed people we’ve tried to cover fairly.

If there is one thing we’ve learned in our careers as student journalists, what matters is impact, not intent.

Which is why we’re apologizing, on the record, for the harms our institution has caused.

In a community chat this fall hosted by The Daily Iowan on reporting on sensitive topics, Interim Director for the Center for Diversity and Enrichment Tabitha Wiggins reiterated what people of color on our staff have said time and again. When people ask, “what is the best way to cover communities of any race, ethnicity?”

The answer: get to know us. Come to us for stories of joy and celebration, of accomplishments and progress, not just in times of crisis or vulnerability.

We want to hear from you. Let’s celebrate your identity and who you are.

Recognizing those stories is on us. And part of that includes a duty to recruit and train people from underrepresented communities to tell stories. We recognize that the more diverse our staff, the better stories are told, and the less often stories are swept under the rug.

The Daily Iowan as an organization has a long way to go to diversify our staff. In 2020, we conducted our first annual staff audit to track our progress and be held accountable. More than 85 percent of our student staffers responded and we found, and we knew we would, that it’ll be a journey to diversifying our ranks. The work won’t be done in one step or one initiative or one year, but we’re committed to doing the work and learning more about where we can grow.

Of our 88 student staffers who responded, 82 percent are white. Eight staffers are Asian/Pacific Islander, six are Hispanic/Latinx, one person is Middle East North African, one person is Jewish, and one person is Black. We have no Native staffers.

Data visualization by Kelsey Harrell/The Daily Iowan

This in part reflects the University of Iowa and the state, both majority-white institutions — 18 percent of the UI student body are from racial/ethnic underrepresented groups, according to fall 2020 data and 15 percent of the state of Iowa’s population is racial/ethnic underrepresented groups, according to the most recent Census estimates. Compared to the UI’s demographics, Asian Americans are overrepresented at the DI, but we fall short of the UI’s Latina/o/x, Black, and Native populations.

We want to hear from you. Let’s celebrate your identity and who you are. Recognizing those stories is on us. And part of that includes a duty to recruit and train people from underrepresented communities to tell stories. We recognize that the more diverse our staff, the better stories are told, and the less often stories are swept under the rug.”

We know we can do better.

And need to do better, which our staff recognizes too. After all, college newspapers are a major pipeline to professional outlets, which have also faced reckonings on racial justice.

More than half — 57 percent — of respondents to our survey disagreed that we are a diverse organization in race/ethnicity and 51 percent of respondents disagreed that we are diverse in regard to international students.

We know this work will take a while — well beyond current editors’ time at the UI — but here’s what we plan to do, and have done, to take our first steps.

We launched a new page, Amplify, to raise up stories from underrepresented communities in their own words. Our now-opinions editor Hannah Pinski wrote about facing anti-Asian discrimination as COVID-19 swept the world. In a final edition, we partnered with the UI chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists to publish a profile on the Iowa-turned-national organization Humanize My Hoodie that aims to destigmatize hoodies.

We’ve called out racism when we’ve seen it, and recognize we’ve missed past opportunities.

We hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion director for the first time this fall and put together a committee to take a closer look at our coverage and address our hiring and recruitment practices.

Going forward, feedback from our staffers and community has been clear (and we’d love to hear more). We’ll prioritize training for our staffers — nearly half of our staffers have spent less than a year at the DI — including workshops centered on ethical reporting. We’ll do a better job of reaching out to our on-campus partners for ideas, trainings, and community work. Already, the Center for Diversity and Enrichment hosted an implicit bias training workshop with us and many media members and on-campus experts have participated in our monthly community chats on representation in the media.

But we’ll do a better job recruiting, too. Our publisher created a diversity scholarship for underrepresented minority high school students to pursue journalism at the UI and at the DI.

Here are more details on the makeup of our staff.

Data visualization by Kelsey Harrell/The Daily Iowan

Nearly all of our staffers are students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which considering that’s the college the School of Journalism and Mass Communication is housed in, is understandable. Many of our marketing efforts target aspiring journalists looking for more experience.

Thirteen percent of our staffers are first-generation college students, underrepresenting first-generation students at the UI, which make up about a quarter of the UI’s student population. Sixty-four percent of our staffers are in-state students, in line with the university’s demographics, 32 percent reside out of state, and 4 percent are international students.

Data visualization by Kelsey Harrell/The Daily Iowan

We also found a majority of our staffers also work part time jobs outside of The Daily Iowan — a testament to rising tuition, increasingly unaffordable degrees, and other opportunities available. Forty-six respondents (52 percent) said they worked outside the DI, and 39 DI staffers (44 percent of respondents) worked solely at the DI.

Our workforce is also heavily female — 72 percent of staffers that responded identified as female, 25 percent identified as male, one person preferred not to say and another staffer preferred to self-describe.

Data visualization by Kelsey Harrell/The Daily Iowan

We’ll look to different nooks and crannies of the UI to recruit and train young journalists, and be transparent about what it’s like to work here. We welcome folks from all majors — our Hawkeye football photographer is an engineering major. Our design editor majors in informatics.

To be more transparent, we launched a Frequently Asked Questions page about working for the DI this spring, and jumpstarted weekly training sessions. And we welcome emails and phone calls with any questions.

We know this will be a long journey. It’ll require reminders and course corrections. We know we won’t get everything right, but promise to own up to our mistakes and do better the next time.

—Sarah Watson, Daily Iowan Executive Editor

—Cesar Perez, Daily Iowan Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director

—Alexandra Skores, Daily Iowan Managing Editor

—Daily Iowan Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion board

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