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April 6, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:11am

Reuters newsroom diversity editor: Leadership must change if we are to be global success

By Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams

As Reuters publishes its first newsroom diversity report the global news agency’s newsroom diversity editor Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams reflects on how the global news agency needs to change.

We have known for a long time that news organisations have to better reflect our societies. But the events of the past 12 months – including the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, the debate over media portrayal of Meghan Markle, and the campaign to stop Asian hate – have made our industry realise this is now an existential issue; we must reflect the world we report on or we will become an irrelevance.

I started at Reuters 18 months ago as the editor for newsroom diversity. As a black woman who is passionate about news, tech and innovation, it is a role that I am very excited about. Reuters is an incredible organisation: we operate in 200 locations around the world and deliver news in 16 languages; our journalists are driven, fearless, curious about the world; and our commitment to independent news is a public good. But sadly, like most media organisations we are wrestling with diversity and inclusion challenge.

Today is a significant moment in that challenge, as we are publishing our first Diversity at Reuters report. The report looks at the makeup of our global newsroom and outlines the steps we are taking to improve diversity and inclusion. In our commitment to transparency, we will continue to publish annually.

As we expected, the data to date highlights some clear areas for improvement. Our organisation is not as diverse as the societies we serve and the problem is particularly acute amongst leadership roles.  This needs to change if we want to continue to be a successful global newsroom covering the world in all its depth.

The world is constantly evolving, if we stand still we will no doubt become obsolete losing our current and potential future clients and readership along the way.   In laying out our ambition to improve, Reuters president Michael Friedenberg and editor in chief Steve Adler wrote that “we recognize that we can do better and that we must improve the racial and ethnic diversity in our own organisation.”

[Read more: Liz Gerard investigates press bigotry and the claim Meghan Markle coverage was racist]

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It is important to note that the data we have shared is not complete. In some categories, we capture only a small number of all employees. Last summer, we launched an internal campaign called Count Me In, encouraging more employees to add diversity details to their confidential HR profiles. We have more information, but there are still large gaps. In fact, capturing accurate data remains one of the greatest challenges in accurately assessing where we are.

However, we are clear on where we want to be. Last July, we committed to setting more aggressive goals around racial and ethnic diversity targets, including in our leadership. We committed to:

  • Improve our ability to track and monitor racial and ethnic diversity data globally to drive transparency, accountability and year-over-year progress
  • Increase overall ethnic and racial diversity at senior leadership levels by 20% over two years (by end 2022)
  • Double black employees in senior leadership levels over two years (by end 2022)
  • Reach at least 40% women in our senior leadership levels by end 2022.

Diversity is not just about changing the makeup of our newsroom. It’s also about creating a culture where people feel a sense of belonging, feel heard, and can be their authentic selves so they can do their best work.

To help us achieve that within our newsroom, we have set up three editorial employee networks: The Black Journalists and Allies Network, Women Journalists and Allies Network, and LGBTQIA+ & Allies Network. They are open to all staff in every region and have already made a significant impact.

[Read moreEx-BBC journalist Kurt Barling  says racism exists everywhere, even in newsrooms]

We also launched our new global editorial mentoring programme in September. It’s open to all journalists, with a focus on supporting our efforts around diversity and developing emerging leaders. By pairing mentees with mentors in different locations and different parts of the newsroom, we hope the programme will help not just those involved, but also strengthen networks across our newsroom.

Our editorial training team will work closely with all our mentees and their line managers to ensure they have career development plans in place to help them achieve their short and long-term goals.

Our trainee programmes have long been powerful draws for early career reporters, incredible sources of great talent, and emblems of our global reach and continued appeal. Our close ties to the National Association of Black Journalists in the United States continues, with Reuters financing scholarships with three US journalism schools – NYU, Medill and CUNY.

The Yannis Behrakis Photojournalism Grants, named for one of Reuters’ best-loved photographers, offered four grants to diverse photojournalists and students in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Uganda and Canada to produce a photo project. Recipients are mentored by Reuters Pictures Editors to help develop their visual and storytelling skills and receive reporting and hostile environment training.

We are mindful that real sustainable change takes time and recognise that this is an ongoing journey.  There is so much more to be done, but we feel confident that we have now put the foundations in place to put us on the right track.

As an industry, we cannot afford to be complacent. We have to champion diversity and inclusion in everything we do, with intent, intelligence and authenticity. We cannot report on a world we do not understand. But if we commit to real change, we can transform what could be an existential threat into an opportunity to better serve our staff, our customers and our society.

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