What ProPublica Is Doing About Diversity in 2023
ProPublica is committed to increasing the diversity of our workplace as well as the journalism community more broadly, and each year we publish a report on those efforts. This is the report for 2023; here are all our past reports.
We believe that it is imperative to staff our newsroom and business operations with people from a broad range of backgrounds, ages and perspectives. We are committed to recruiting and retaining people from communities that have long been underrepresented, in journalism broadly and in investigative journalism especially. That includes African Americans, Latinos, other people of color, women, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.
ProPublica has continued to expand, growing from 160 full-time employees at the start of 2022 to 172 in 2023, due in part to the launch of our global public health team and additions to our visuals, audience, development, finance and talent teams. In addition to recruiting talent and awarding financial stipends for students to attend journalism conferences, ProPublica’s diversity efforts last year included our largest presence yet at journalism affinity conferences and the development of an investigative editor training program.
We also worked to formalize some of our previously volunteer-run diversity efforts and have included some of our broader diversity goals in ProPublica’s first strategic plan.
The Diversity Committee comprises more than 50 ProPublicans who volunteer their time to work on initiatives that are pitched and run by the staff. The current co-chairs are Vianna Davila, Melissa Sanchez and Liz Sharp.
Breakdown of Our Staff
As with last year, we tracked candidates through the application and interview process. Out of 30 positions filled in 2022, 55% of the candidates we interviewed identified as women and 42% identified as being part of a racial/ethnic group other than solely non-Hispanic white. Of those we hired, 40% identified as women and 47% as being part of a racial/ethnic group other than solely non-Hispanic white.
The percentage of all ProPublica staff members who identified as solely non-Hispanic white was 59%, the same as last year. In editorial positions, the percentage of staff members who identified as solely non-Hispanic white was 59%, the same as in the two prior years.
For the fifth year in a row, more women than men work at ProPublica. In editorial positions, women represented 49% of the staff.
Last year we began collecting demographic information about our board of directors. Half of the 14 people on the board identified as women, and 71% of the directors identified as non-Hispanic white.
As we’ve said since 2015, part of our commitment to diversity means being transparent about our own numbers. Here’s how our staff breaks down:
Note: The data is based on employees’ self-reported information. Recognizing that some people may identify as more than one race but not identify as a person of color, last year we began stating numbers in terms of people who “solely identify as non-Hispanic white.” We hope this will provide more specificity and accuracy. The employee information is as of Jan. 1 of each year. Managers are defined as staff members who supervise other people and that group does not include all editors. Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding. Fellows, time-limited employees and part-time employees are not included in this analysis.
Investigative editor training: ProPublica in December announced its new Investigative Editor Training Program for applicants who want to learn how to manage, edit and elevate investigative projects that expose harm and create impact. This initiative, led by Talia Buford and Ginger Thompson, was designed to increase diversity in the next generation of investigative editors. The program will launch this spring with an internal training for ProPublica staffers interested in becoming editors. In June 2023, we will welcome the first external cohort of the yearlong program with an in-person editor training in New York. After that, participants will be paired with ProPublica senior staff as mentors and receive additional virtual training for the rest of the year. (Apply here.)
Sensitivity subcommittee: Led by Andrea Wise, Colleen Barry and Maya Eliahou, this group formed in 2022 after numerous internal conversations about concerns that regularly surfaced when reporters were working on stories touching on sensitive topics, particularly suicide and sexual assault. Volunteers created a standing Slack channel to create a space for the staff to leverage and share its collective knowledge and experience on these and other topics that require a careful and thoughtful approach.
Strategic plan: Leading the journalism industry on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts is one of the priorities ProPublica staffers and leaders are including in our five-year (2023-2027) strategic plan. The plan outlines the organization’s progress and initiatives over the past 15 years while acknowledging that there is more work to do. We plan to dedicate more resources to making investigative journalism careers accessible and sustainable for journalists from underrepresented backgrounds.
Our Ongoing Efforts
We think about our efforts in the following ways: building the pipeline (for us and for all of investigative journalism); recruiting talent and improving our hiring process; and inclusion and retention. Last year, as travel and in-person diversity initiatives became more feasible after the initial years of the coronavirus pandemic, ProPublica increased its presence at conferences and continued to offer virtual training and development opportunities.
Building the Pipeline
Conference stipends: ProPublica offers funding to help student journalists attend conferences. This effort is coordinated by Mollie Simon, Ash Ngu and Adriana Gallardo. In the seventh year of the program, we teamed up with The Pudding to award 25 stipends of $750 each. Because of the pandemic, we gave students the option to use the money for either journalism-related expenses or conference expenses. This year, following feedback from our 2022 stipend cohort, we are working to focus this initiative on supporting journalists from diverse backgrounds who have a distinct desire to pursue investigative journalism.
Emerging Reporters Program: The program provides financial assistance and mentorship to eight students for whom investigative journalism might otherwise be inaccessible so they can pursue early career opportunities in the field. The program includes a $9,000 stipend, virtual programming and admission to a journalism conference. This is the program’s eighth year, and it is coordinated by Talia Buford. Check out our most recent class and find out more about the program.
ONA (Online News Association) Diversity Breakfast: A breakfast at the ONA conference, facilitated by Ruth Baron and Steve Myers, paired managing editors, executive editors and other leading professionals in the industry with journalists from historically underrepresented communities. Nearly 40 journalists participated in the event. We have hosted both virtual and in-person breakfasts at the conference since 2015. In 2023, we will be shifting our efforts to other investigative mentorship opportunities.
Chicago external mentorships: Mentorship sessions with Free Spirit Media, which provides teens and young adults in communities of color on Chicago’s West and South sides with media literacy and media production opportunities. Led by Duaa Eldeib, workshops include sessions on the art of pitching stories and conceptualizing data.
Data Institute: ProPublica, in partnership with The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting and OpenNews, held a workshop for journalists on how to use data, design and code. Twelve journalism students, professors and working journalists participated in the weeklong online training last summer. The Data Institute started in 2016, founded by ProPublica journalists to make high-quality technical training accessible to more journalists.
Mentorship: Working with the Journalism Mentors program, a group of ProPublica journalists had one-on-one mentoring sessions with 17 people last year. This mentorship opportunity, which can include general advice or portfolio reviews, can be arranged as an in-person session during affinity conferences. The sessions can also be arranged outside of the traditional conference season. Melissa Sanchez, Rui Kaneya and Max Blau coordinated these efforts last year. (Interested? Sign up for a session.)
Recruiting and Hiring
Affinity conferences: Newsroom staff and masthead members from ProPublica and three other nonprofit newsrooms (The Marshall Project, The Texas Tribune and The Trace) came together at the Asian American Journalists Association and the joint National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference to host mixers and other professional development opportunities. ProPublica staff also attended the Native American Journalists Association conference and conducted resume reviews. This work was led by Maya Miller and Irena Hwang.
Salary transparency: Starting last fall, in advance of a new law that affects postings for jobs based in New York City, ProPublica began publishing salary ranges for all posted job openings, regardless of geography. Management also shared salary ranges internally for positions in which four or more people hold that job. This was done to ensure transparency about pay among staff and potential applicants in an effort to achieve equity in the newsroom.
Salary equity: ProPublica management annually analyzes salaries in job categories where there are at least four employees and, when necessary, adjusts those salaries to ensure equity by race and gender in each job and location group, while taking into account years of experience. This analysis started in 2021. We do this because we want to try to eliminate the effects of any unconscious bias in setting salaries.
Rooney Rule: We require that hiring managers interview at least one person who does not self-identify as solely non-Hispanic white. In addition, every application must be read by at least two people.
Freelancer guide: Last fall, ProPublica published a guide for freelancers interested in pitching an investigation to ProPublica. We designed the guide to formalize the pitch process and level the playing field for how freelance projects are presented and considered. Submissions will be reviewed by editors on a rotating basis. ProPublica will respond to anyone who completes the form, even if their proposal is not accepted.
LRN candidate outreach: Editors with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network started offering office hours to potential applicants. They also offered more intensive mentoring to a select number of applicants who weren’t accepted in order to develop promising proposals over time. Finally, LRN editors were present at affinity journalism conferences, where they met with interested applicants in an effort to help them with the project-development and application process.
Inclusion and Retention
Unconscious bias training: In 2021, ProPublica hired Paradigm Reach to conduct ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion training with staff. The training is required of all new managers.
ProPublica Peer Partnership Program: This is an internal program organized by Jodi Cohen and Lisa Song that matches ProPublicans with a mentor or peer partner to meet each other, develop new skills and have someone to turn to for help navigating workplace or career questions.
Welcoming new hires and focusing on internal culture: A subcommittee led by Michael Grabell and Ariana Tobin continued to meet last year to consider ways to make the newsroom more inclusive and equitable, including how to prevent burnout, how to build community while working remotely and ways to make the organization’s expense policy welcoming to people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Diversity Committee office hours: We have continued to offer a casual hangout on Zoom twice a month where ProPublicans can chat with the Diversity Committee co-chairs to brainstorm about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, ask questions about ProPublica’s ongoing DEI programs or chat about diversity-related concerns in a more intimate setting outside of the monthly committee meetings.
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