TypeFace: Diversity Report

GPI HQ — For decades, the news business has been talking about diversifying its newsrooms. While some gains have been tallied, the overall picture of mainstream newsrooms remains predominantly white and male.

In its annual census the American Society of News Editors reported that newsroom diversity in 2015 remained stable at 12.76 percent. Specialty news outlets like ProPublica are also taking steps to be more transparent about their diversity efforts, but their newsroom remains 74 percent white and 62 percent male. A 2015 diversity study of the New York Times revealed that just 32 percent of the Gray Lady’s reporters are women.

As a news organization committed to training and employing women journalists, you might think our diversity report is pretty cut and dry.

But it isn’t.

GPI was founded on the core belief that changing the storyteller changes the story. And the more we prioritize a diverse reporter population the more we are able to accurately and authentically cover some of the world’s least-covered regions. But that means we must define diversity by more than just race and gender.

The majority of foreign correspondence continues to center on just four topics — war, poverty, disaster and disease. All important topics, certainly. But they are also the topics obvious to outsiders. GPI excels at covering complex news environments like post-conflict Uganda or ethnic and religious hotbeds like Sri Lanka, because our reporters are local women who come from a variety of ethnic, religious, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

So this year, in our 2015 annual report, I decided to take what have long been internal measurements and to put them out into the world so that you, our readers, can better understand just who our reporters are and how their diversity contributes to the exceptional news stories they tell. Consider, for example, diversity’s role in important things like source access and accuracy of quotations when source and reporter speak the same language.

In measuring such diverse diversity metrics GPI reveals why newsrooms care so much about diversity anyway — these statistics tell us what we often forget, that reporters are just people. People who are tasked with collecting the narratives and verifying the facts that allow each one of us to understand the world and our place in it.

At GPI, we are committed to training and employing a representative reporter population to give you the most authentic view of the world.

Here are the highlights from our 2015 diversity report.

Global Scope

GPI currently operates 41 independent news desks in some of the least-covered parts of the world. Racial diversity, one of the most discussed measurements in U.S. newsrooms, is a foregone conclusion for GPI. Of our top 60 reporters, those who produce a majority of our strongest stories, none are white. They are all local people. Born and raised in the communities that they cover.

And that’s important for more than the unique pie chart it produces. It means that the journalists covering these communities understand the fullness and complexity of the local issues. It means they are better suited to find sources who can speak to nuances and uncover narratives that have long been missing from mainstream media about places like Democratic Republic of Congo or Guatemala. And it ensures our readers get unique access to topics like human trafficking and food security.

Gender

GPI’s mission is to train and employ women journalists. Our editorial leadership team, from publisher to regional editors, is comprised solely of women. And our reporters too, are 100% women. Men provide important editorial support roles at GPI news desks around the world, like translation of drafts into English and copy editing support.

Employing female reporters allows Global Press Journal, the award-winning publication of GPI, to produce news stories that are often out of reach for media outlets that only rely on foreign correspondents. Of course, our reporters don’t simply cover “women’s issues.” But their coverage of business and human rights, the environment and technology is so strong in part because of the diverse source access their own diversity gives them access too.

Age

GPI reporters range in age from 18 to 65. Age is an important diversity measurement to ensure contextual accuracy and optimum news value.

In Sri Lanka for example, reporter Kumala Wijeratne is our grand dame at the feisty age of 65. Some of her local colleagues are in their mid-20s. And her editor is in her 40s. Their diversity, coupled with the collaborative nature of GPJ newsrooms, ensures that the resulting coverage will include important contextual references to Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war that came to an end in 2009, when some reporters were in secondary school.

Education

Perhaps my favorite GPI diversity metric is education. Bachelor’s degrees are the common pre-requisite for journalists in America, similarly 22 percent of GPI reporters have a college degree. Another five percent have a graduate degree and nine percent have completed some college or are currently enrolled.

But what about the other 64 percent?

31 percent of our reporters have completed secondary school, the equivalent of a high school degree. But 20 percent of our reporters completed only primary school. That means when they come to GPI they not only have to learn how to be a journalist, they also have to learn to type and work hard to improve vocabulary, grammar and a host of other basic skills. And 13 percent of our reporters have no formal education at all.

Interestingly, our top 60 reporters who we consider to be “the best” based on a measurement of publication frequency, engagement, skill set improvements and news value tend to be among either the most educated or the least. What the least educated reporters lack in typing speed they make up for in street smarts, innate understanding of storytelling and extremely unique source access and story ideas.

The truth is, journalism isn’t a classroom discipline. GPI reporters prove time and again that degrees don’t help you to smell out a story. They won’t help you find sources in rural locations that lack internet access and cell phone coverage. And they certainly won’t provide the social, historical, political and cultural context you need to tell a well-rounded story.

After 10 years, we know that the GPI training program, a 24-module curriculum, can take years to master regardless of educational background.

Religion

We measure religious diversity too in order to ensure balance in our coverage in places where religious tensions run high or factor into political operations. 37 percent of GPI reporters are Catholic or Christian. Interestingly, Hindu, Buddhist, Other and None were reported in near equal proportions.

Marital Status & Family Size

GPI is also interested in training and employing women who have diverse family situations. In recent years, a growing number of our journalists are single and over the age of 30, which offers an interesting insight into changing gender norms around the world.

But there’s a flip side to this diversity coin.

Inherent in each of these diversity metrics is the reality that the greater a reporter’s insider status the greater the opportunity for bias in her coverage. At GPI we work against bias by ensuring each news desk employs diverse representatives from the community. Our unique code of ethics takes this insider status into account and teaches reporters to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards and to rely on collaborative exchanges among our local, regional and global teams to balance bias, offer context and aim for authenticity. And the HQ team offers an important feedback loop and verification process for detecting and rooting out bias.

Diversity matters for so many reasons. Better storytelling is at the top of the list.

All data is based on the 2015 GPI reporter evaluation completed anonymously, online in October 2015.

by Cristi Hegranes, Founder & Executive Director

As part of the new http://globalpressjournal.com/, we are featuring three different blogs. TypeFace, which you just read, Between the Lines, where our editors expound upon their editorial decisions and challenges of global journalism, and Inside the Story, where GPJ reporters from around the world give insider accounts of what it takes to cover the world.