Over the past several years, inclusion and diversity took on new importance in the political discourse. Social movements like Black Lives Matter and Time’s Up, especially, brought inequality to the fore. Many media outlets have responded to audience demands and have worked to diversify newsrooms. 

Being as diverse as their audience became a key policy for digital media giants like Vox and BuzzFeed. In Europe, while these changes have been visible and diversity is a rule for many organisations, the situation is still pretty stagnant. Reports show that newsrooms in the region are far from inclusive and diverse.

Major European news networks are still predominantly white and middle-class. None of the major players in Germany or the UK have a non-white editor, a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shows. Moreover, there is a huge disparity in other parameters, such as gender, class, and education. For example, in Sweden and Germany, migrants are underrepresented among media workers. There is also a lack of journalists who do not come from an urban environment, and of journalists whose families are working class or economically disadvantaged. 

One of the main reasons is that newsrooms are not having internal conversations about diversity, Euractiv reports. They are not keeping metrics and are not tracking the situation, so their diversity policies are not effective if they exist at all. While the situation might not be the same for all of the news media, the issue still stands. 

It might seem that newsroom diversity largely lies in the ethical realm and has little influence on revenue, readership, or engagement. That’s not true. Here are the main reasons why media managers should think about the diversity in their newsroom, besides obvious moral arguments. 

Diversity grows revenue

In a broader context, McKinsey’s research shows that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams are more likely to enjoy above-average profitability. Racial diversity among managers also brings up profitability.

This tendency applies to journalism as well. NiemanLab reports on the case of Blavity, a US media startup for Black Millenials and Gen Z, which made its mission to hire diverse staff that best serves its audiences. As a result, their readership skyrocketed during the pandemic, which brought impressive revenue for a start-up. 

Another example is Outside Magazine, which made a decision to diversify its editorial commissioning process, meaning that an equal number of stories would be written by men and women. This move generated 20% growth at the time. 

Diversity is good for team performance

With stiff competition on the media market, you need to stand out. And how can you do that if you only tell stories from one standpoint? Diversity is valuable because that means bringing different perspectives to the table.

As a recent Trusting News Guide states: “Who are journalists as human beings, and how do our own experiences inform the news we produce? We recognize, of course, that who we are as people makes us more likely to notice certain things and not notice others – to ask certain questions and not consider others. Our lived experiences matter.” 

Journalists also need diversity, not only audiences. Creating media is a collaborative process where staffers need to be comfortable contributing their ideas. A report by McKinsey notes that higher representation increases likelihood of the team’s outperformance. Employees who feel they serve their audience have a higher sense of purpose and connection. Further research shows that employees who feel that their organization is committed to diversity are better at being innovative. This applies to gender, ethnic and cultural diversity. 

Additionally, it is beneficial for media organizations to connect with local journalists. For example, one journalist startup, Egab connects local journalists in the Middle East and Africa with big media outlets. It also provides training and support so local professionals can produce materials suited for international media. Connecting with local journalists doesn’t just mean having a more nuanced perspective on the ground. You can also get an original and authentic story, without having to worry about organizing travel and accommodation for in-house journalists.  

Diversity improves trust in media, which in turn improves engagement and long-term connections with readers

If you think about it, it is quite simple. Journalists with diverse backgrounds have their own unique perspectives and can bring audiences that you would not get otherwise. Who are women of color going to trust more on matters of women’s rights, for example? A white middle-aged man or someone who is more representative of them? 

Recently this topic was brought up yet again at the Journalism Festival in Perugia. There, representatives of different media organizations stressed that underrepresentation and misrepresentation happen because of a lack of staff diversity.

For example, there was a notable mishap when the BBC put a picture of Lebron James instead of Kobe Bryant when reporting on the tragic death of the latter in 2020. The mistake was corrected quickly, but the damage was already done. Critics pointed out that the newsroom was predominantly white, which caused it to “[get] two big, Black men confused.”. 

Participants of the panel of the International Journalists Festival in Perugia also echoed the sentiment that newsrooms should give opportunities to journalists who are representative of culture and working in the place on which they report rather than those who are describing the issues from afar. 

These are only a few of the reasons why media organizations need to diversify their staff.  What’s most important is implementing a systematic approach and remembering that diversity is beneficial both for the greater good and for your company’s bottom line.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash