We asked journalism leaders: How does your newsroom serve communities of color?

In this Q&A series, we discuss partnerships, distribution channels, building trust in communities and more.

Emily Roseman
INNsights

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Srishti Prabha and Swati Ramaswamy surveying shoppers outside of Desi grocery stores in Santa Clara County for an India Currents story (Image Credit: Srishti Prabha)

By Emily Roseman and Vignesh Ramachandran

How is nonprofit news meeting the needs of communities of color? INN’s member newsrooms say they serve communities of color, but we didn’t know how, exactly — until we asked them to tell us more.

Each year in our Index survey, INN asks nonprofit news organizations across our network to tell us about the efforts they make to serve communities of color.

INN’s 2021 Index Report found that 90% of surveyed outlets either make specific efforts to serve or primarily serve communities of color. Our follow-up survey, described in this post, digs into what those efforts look like.
INN’s 2021 Index Report found that 90% of surveyed outlets either make specific efforts to serve or primarily serve communities of color. Our follow-up survey, described in this post, digs into what those efforts look like.

Recently, we followed up with outlets that make specific efforts to serve communities of color or who primarily serve communities of color. Here’s what we found from the 63 survey respondents:

  • Tactics to serve communities of color vary widely. Some outlets launched a new beat to better serve diverse communities. Others shifted how their journalism is created, utilizing audience engagement strategies. Many launched new distribution channels for communities of color, whether that was a podcast or an SMS campaign. Some told us how serving communities of color is inherent to their work, based on their target audience or through issues they naturally cover.
  • Hispanic and Black audiences are the most cited communities served. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) make efforts to serve Hispanic audiences and 59% for Black audiences. About a third say they make efforts to serve low-income populations, and a little over a quarter say they make efforts to serve rural and Native American communities.
  • Better identifying information needs of communities of color is an area for improvement. Audience research remains an underutilized strategy, with less than a third of respondents (29%) saying they’ve explicitly used audience research methods to better understand the interests and needs of communities of color.
  • Seeking informal feedback on coverage, speaking at events, and partnering with community organizations and ethnic media emerged as the most common methods to better understand communities of color. Across all methods, partnering with community organizations and ethnic media was cited as the most successful strategy.
  • Most newsrooms haven’t measured the impact of these efforts. An area of opportunity is for robust measurement and analysis of whether communities of color are finding additional value from the efforts — whether that’s feeling a greater sense of place or community, being connected with resources, or becoming more empowered with civic information.

We were so intrigued by the work of these outlets that we asked a few to tell us more specifics. The result is a series of Q&As between INN and our members that addresses the question — how is your news outlet serving communities of color?

Each week, we’ll publish a Q&A with a new INN member. Today we are publishing our first Q&A. Ron Smith, editor of the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, discusses how his organization builds cycles of trust between newsroom and community. Ron said it best: “You can’t listen to the community if you are not in the community or providing a safe place for leaders to interact with your newsroom.”

Coming up next: Q&As with India Currents, Dallas Free Press, Charlottesville Tomorrow and Cicero Independiente.

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Emily Roseman
INNsights

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