News outlets taking action on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

A new case study series by INN

Emily Roseman


By Kelsey Gee and Emily Roseman

In September 2020, INN published the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Nonprofit News report based on survey responses from 117 nonprofit newsrooms. Our topline finding in the DEI report: nonprofit newsrooms are more diverse than traditional newsrooms — but there is a lot of room for improvement, especially concerning racial equity.

Today, thanks to the generous support of Knight Foundation and INN’s general support funders and donors, we’re thrilled to announce a new series of case studies that explore the necessary diversity, equity and inclusion work several nonprofit news outlets are taking. Jump to the case studies here. These cases highlight steps that other news organizations may be able to adapt and use.

In this case study series, you’ll learn how:

  • Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting created and executed a DEI plan, including revising hiring and staffing practices;
  • Injustice Watch, a Chicago-based newsroom, launched a new editorial series to fill a coverage and narrative gap in its community; and
  • Several nonprofit news outlets, including The Beacon, WABE and WFAE implemented source tracking methods to better understand whether their coverage reflects the communities they serve.

Today, we publish the first case study on Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. We will publish the remaining case studies over the next few weeks. The best way to be notified when we publish the next case study is to sign up for INN’s weekly INNovation newsletter.

Why these stories?

Why these news outlets, and why these stories? The organizations spotlighted here represent some of the groups who sat down with our team and opened up — telling us their challenges, what they’re doing now, and where they get stuck. In conversations with our case subjects, we kept hearing this disclaimer: I know we’re not doing enough. We want to acknowledge that the news outlets highlighted in these case studies don’t claim to have it all figured out (in fact, they are quick to say they do not). Instead, they are willing to show us what it looks like to be in the middle of important, continuous DEI work.

These cases arrive close to a year since June 2020, when America’s newsrooms were in crisis. Like the rest of the world, journalists had spent the final weeks of spring trying to make sense of a novel pandemic that was wreaking havoc on the economy, when protests over police brutality and racial injustice erupted across the United States.

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police was a flashpoint for the country, and for thousands of reporters and editors who helped shape the story of its reckoning with structural racism. As millions of Black Americans and their allies marched in the streets to demand accountability for Floyd’s death, journalists began speaking up about the prejudices they faced in their own, predominantly white newsrooms.

Social media platforms like Twitter were soon flooded with personal stories of the discrimination and lopsided treatment that journalists of color have faced and struggled to overcome throughout their career. Public outcry over failed promises to diversify staff and story coverage swept large, legacy institutions like the Los Angeles Times and spanned the full range of digital, print and audio platforms used by news publishers today. Overnight, racism and the lack of diversity in America’s newsrooms had become a major story of its own.

For some highly determined news organization leaders, the national spotlight on race and representation kicked off a process of candid self-examination and truth-telling, resulting in sweeping changes to the organization’s priorities and structure. For other news organizations, this moment was a reminder about why existing editorial focuses on race and racism, and organizational commitments to diversity, are so necessary. Newsrooms across the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), a news network of over 300 nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations across North America, are some of those groups going through this process of reckoning, action, and renewed commitments.

INN’s DEI work and resources

In tandem with our DEI case study series, INN recently launched the Racial Equity and Inclusion in Nonprofit News Program (REINN) for its members. Supported by the Knight Foundation and led by INN’s Sara Shahriari and several expert partners (including Inspiring Change), REINN offers frameworks, tools and implementation support for members seeking to advance racial diversity, equity and inclusion in their organizations and their journalism. REINN is an evolving program based on member needs and participant feedback.

INN’s full DEI report, published in September 2020.

Along with these case studies and the REINN program, the INN team will publish more comprehensive findings about diversity, equity and inclusion across the nonprofit news field in our upcoming INN Index 2021 report (sign up here if you’d like to be notified when we release the report this spring).

A final word before you dig into the cases: like all organizations, the Institute for Nonprofit News itself also has work to do. We invite you to learn more about how INN is working to become a more equitable and inclusive organization in our Diversity Report. As of the time of this post, INN’s staff is in the middle of a series of training sessions with Inspiring Change to learn how we can improve our own workplace culture and practices.



Emily Roseman

Research Director at the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN). Studying how public service journalism can thrive.