As the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University has grown over the last several years, so has its focus on diversity and inclusion in the media ecosystem of New Jersey.
In 2018 the Center launched a program to help journalists of color in the state attend conferences. In 2019, we hired Anthony Advincula to work with Dr. Sarah Stonbely on a report about the state’s ethnic media press corps and develop a full program to support them. We raised money to support journalists of color and, early in the pandemic, launched a translation program to support wider dissemination of critical information. We also set goals for the diversity of speakers and attendees at our events.
But by mid-2020 we quickly realized that these steps were not enough. Not nearly enough.
The racial reckoning that swept the U.S. following the death of George Floyd deeply impacted the Center and its work. We began to much more openly discuss race and how white supremacy finds its way into our work and our systems. We began to name white supremacy regularly and look for ways to call it out and stop it. We began to talk about how we could build an anti-racist culture and news ecosystem. Thanks to support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, three of the Center’s staffers completed a six-month anti-racist and anti-oppression training course with Yancey Consulting.
As a result, the Center’s work has become more focused on supporting, advocating for, and being an ally of journalists and media-makers of color in New Jersey.
As this change occurred, we decided we wanted to write down some of our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion and make them public, so that we could reference them easily and regularly and so our stakeholders could hold us accountable to them.
We didn’t want to just write a bunch of nice but ultimately empty words about DEI, jump on the bandwagon, and move on. Instead we wanted to be intentional about how we can build a framework that would truly guide the Center’s work. Our team has been working on its DEI commitments over several weeks starting in the spring of 2021, and we’ve continued to reflect on them throughout the summer, including meeting as a group with folks from Yancey Consulting to get feedback.
We will assess our progress against these commitments once a year in the Center’s annual report and will revise as necessary.
The Center for Cooperative Media’s statement on and commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion
The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University is committed to creating inclusive, equitable, and safe programs, events and experiences.
The Center is a program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State. In its Commitment to Diversity, the University states: “Montclair State University is an inclusive, richly diverse community that fosters mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding among all students and employees.”
Similarly the Center — through its narrower mission of supporting local journalism — is committed to creating inclusive, equitable and safe programs, events and experiences for its partners, collaborators, stakeholders, and anyone else with whom it interacts.
Media in general, and journalism more specifically, plays a critical role when it comes to developing an anti-racist society. As such, it is imperative that journalism institutions and individual media-makers understand what anti-racism and anti-oppression are, and seek to center both in their work.
That means acknowledging and confronting the roles that implicit bias, structural and systemic racism, and historical inequity play in the journalism industry and the world we live in. It also means actively seeking to identify and dismantle white supremacist systems, insisting upon diversity in newsrooms, and paying special attention to the needs of — and barriers faced by — journalists and media-makers of color.
We do this through the following commitments and practices:
- We commit to being anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and meaningfully inclusive across all of our programs. We draw from this document and glossary of terms in our view of anti-racism and anti-oppression; you can read those here.
- We commit to actively prioritizing diverse and marginalized voices when recruiting participants, speakers, co-workers, grant recipients, partners, and collaborators.
- We commit to ensuring an accessible, inclusive, and welcoming environment during Center events. We will listen and respond quickly to any concerns or issues raised.
- We pay attention to the language we use and respond respectfully and empathetically to criticism or recommendations for improvement.
- We respectfully gather demographic information about participants in our events and programs, partners, and collaborators to facilitate maximum diversity and to hold ourselves accountable.
- We put our financial resources behind these values, making sure money isn’t a barrier to entry or participation.
- We are learning and welcome feedback.
Some of the commitments above were adapted from the Speaker Rider for Meaningfully Inclusive Events, created by Jan Diehm, Sisi Wei and Erika Owens at OpenNews and The Pudding. These commitments are also informed by the Center’s work participating in Yancey Consulting’s 6-month training series, which wraps up this spring, titled “Learning to Applied Practice: Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression.”
Stefanie Murray is director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact her at email@example.com.
About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism and support an informed society in New Jersey and beyond. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.