Susan S. Richardson becomes new CEO of the Center for Public Integrity on Monday. Expect change.

Rose Horowitz
#WomentoFollow
Published in
4 min readJan 25, 2020

“How are we unearthing issues that haven’t been covered and how are we reaching marginalized communities?” Richards asks in this interview. My #WomentoFollow profile thread (12th edition).

By @RoseHorowitz31 26 April 2019

Susan S. Richardson, new CEO of D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity, has spent most of her career covering local news, poverty, & communities of color. “It’s important nationally to learn from local communities (how) to build bridges…”

Statehouse coverage in the nation “has pretty much been decimated,” says Richardson, speaking of the huge job losses in newspapers. @Publicl, the 30-year-old investigative journalism nonprofit, has focused on national politics but has expanded coverage in other areas.

Another priority for Richardson? Diversity in hiring. “Editors often say, ‘we can’t find women or people of color.’ As long as I’ve been in journalism, we have not hit the mark. A lot of this is about doing and not talking.”

“For me as a woman and a woman of color, it’s important that our policies create a level and open playing field…I will push hard to make inclusion an overall part of our hiring practices,” she says. Richardson begins as CEO on May 20.

People tend to operate in a network of people they know although they should always be “getting outside their own network,” she says. “Recruiting has to be ongoing and intentional.” Why? “So, when you get to hire, you have a diverse list.”

Institutions, including newsrooms, have to “push back on bias.” “When a hiring manager says someone is not a ‘good fit’ Is — what does that mean? Does that mean they are not a cultural fit? In many situations, people are comfortable with someone because they are like them.”

“Diversity of experience & perspective is critical to producing quality news,” she says. “As the country moves largely to become a nation of color, institutions have to reflect that. Democracy can’t be legitimate if the majority is not a meaningful part of its institutions.”

How would the nonprofit add value to local journalism? Richardson cites two major ways: 1. build on its role as a data resource for state & local reporters. 2. choose projects that add muscle to local efforts, such as sending a reporter to help on “deep dives.”

Its partnerships might be with big news outlets such as the @AP but they could also be w/new ethnic or regional platforms, notes Richardson, who says her first paid #journo job was covering city council meetings for a weekly paper.

“How are we unearthing issues that haven’t been covered and how are we reaching marginalized communities?,” Richardson asks. The mid-term elections and number of women & people of color elected highlight two trends: disaffection from institutions and questions about identity.

The Center for Public Integrity has the “opportunity to have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening around the country. What I’m advocating is not a change in the work we do but how we are looking at it. The issues would be more grounded in a local perspective.”

As she packs up her home of 16 years in Chicago for the move to D.C., Richardson says she is excited to “lead an organization with an incredible history.” She will be one of the few African- Americans in a leadership role at a news nonprofit. http://www.womensmediacenter.com/assets/site/reports/the-status-of-women-of-color-in-the-u-s-media-2018-full-report/Women-of-Color-Report-FINAL-WEB.pdf …

Richardson, who is divorced and has one son, was most recently editorial director at the nonprofit @soljourno. Career highlights: editor and publisher of @ChicagoReporter, the investigative news organization, managing editor of the @TexasObserver, and a @niemanfdn Fellow.

Saying she grew up as an “Army brat,” living in Europe & on military bases in Virginia and Texas, Richardson has a B.A. from the @UTAustin & a master’s from the @Kennedy_School

“The #WomentoFollow hashtag is a simple but powerful act of solidarity.” Richardson’s 3 #WomentoFollow: Laura Washington @MediaDervish, who was on the hiring committee of the @ChicagoReporter when she was interviewing there;

Tiffany Walden and Morgan Johnson, two young African-American women who co-founded @TheTriibe, a platform about the Chicago neighborhood where they grew up; & @lollybowean, @chicagotribune, who she praises as a great storyteller & mentor to younger reporters. #WomentoFollow

Watch for #WomentoFollow profiles from @RoseHorowitz31

Click here to see the #WomentoFollow Twitter list curated by @heykiddo. Subscribe to the list, now at more than 1,000 strong.

Originally published at twitter.com on April 26, 2019.

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Rose Horowitz
#WomentoFollow

Pulitzer-nominated Journalist. Founder & Host, #WomenToFollow https://bit.ly/2JwQWgV. Published: @nytimes @forbes