From the editor: Going on the record with our newsroom diversity pledge
For 125 years now, The Record has told the story of life in North Jersey.
It was a story that began at the turn of the previous century, when the New York suburbs that make up Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Morris and Sussex counties didn’t yet exist. Instead, the landscape was covered with farmland, dotted with nascent Main Streets and not nearly as crowded — or diverse — as the North Jersey of today.
Now, New Jersey and its nearly 9 million residents represent a cross-section of America. Some 20% of those residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. More than 13% identify as Black or African American. And another 10% as Asian, according to the U.S. Census.
But our newsroom has not always changed as quickly as our region.
Diversity: Having a diverse newsroom is critical to telling stories about North Jersey. Here’s a look at our staff
From the company: Gannett news president: Diversity and inclusion are choices, not just words. Today we reaffirm our mission.
Over the years, The Record has largely failed to be consistent in how it has told the story of diversity in North Jersey. We have at times focused on different cultures and had reporters assigned to beats focused on the Black experience or Asian communities, but those efforts have waned with cutbacks in the industry.
We have always focused on diversity in our newsroom, sometimes successfully and many times falling short.
Too often our focus on communities of color has been about the crimes committed in those communities, not their strong cultures, programs and businesses. We have shied away from covering other communities because of language barriers or because they appear to be insular.
As your local media, by those very actions or inactions, we have exacerbated the fault lines among neighboring communities and cultures. And it is time for us to own those missteps, intentional or otherwise, and move toward providing more complete coverage of the tapestry of cultures that make up North Jersey.
It won’t be easy and it won’t happen in days, weeks or even months. We realize it will take time to earn the trust of many communities who don’t see journalists as representing their interests, their struggles, their successes.
But we will work every day toward that.
Part of that progress is internal and is a continuation of long-standing efforts at The Record to be more inclusive in the voices, photos and videos we produce to represent a wider swath of races, religions, viewpoints and genders.
We are continuing that process now by making sure our source databases are diversified and consistently updated so that we can get a wider variety of views in our stories. We also pledge to tell stories in communities not traditionally covered, to show that in reality, we are all not that different from one another — and that where differences do exists, they are celebrated.
In our newsroom, we are committing to bringing on a more diverse staff by hiring journalists from all the communities that we represent. The surest way to be a more inclusive newspaper is to have those differing perspectives right in our newsroom.
In addition, we look forward to bringing back a long-standing tradition at The Record, a diversity-in-journalism workshop for college students. For many years, we ran a two-week workshop to encourage diverse populations to join the field of journalism. It was a program that was brought back this year, but was a casualty of coronavirus lockdowns. We hope to return it next year.
And we will continue to hold conversations with civic groups throughout our coverage area to speak about the issues of importance to their communities. We have already met with the Hispanic Alliance of Garfield, and while in-person gatherings are difficult, we will be looking to schedule virtual meetings in the coming months with many of our local groups.
For the staff of The Record and NorthJersey.com, moving forward in this direction is paramount to our ongoing mission of giving voice to the voiceless, of shining a light into shadowy corners, of holding those in power to account and of truly being a friend of the people we serve.
We will become a better resource for our readers who also want to understand. And we will count on our faithful readers to point out when we aren’t hitting the mark.
Along those lines, if you have suggestions for stories or issues that you want coverage for, please reach out and let us know. If you would like to schedule a meeting with your group, please get in touch. As your local newspaper, we are only as strong as you make us.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to updating you on our efforts.
Daniel Sforza is the executive editor of The Record and NorthJersey.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content was originally published here.