Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) announced Tuesday a number of steps it’s taking to address the racial disparities in its newsroom, which will include tracking the “demographic background” of every guest who appears on air.
In a January 22 article, MPR Executive Director Nancy Cassutt revealed that her newsroom is part of a new coalition called “Truth and Transformation: Changing Racial Narratives in Media,” which will be hosting a conference for reporters in March.
“The goal of the conference and the coalition is to encourage journalists to examine their own racial biases and assumptions. We need to expand the narrative of what it means to be a person of color in our state, and adequately and fairly represent communities of color in our coverage,” she wrote.
Cassutt said her newsroom experiences significant turnover among reporters of color, noting that “seven left within the course of about a year.”
“That’s a blow to a newsroom of our size, one that’s been nearly all white through its history,” she said, arguing that a newsroom’s coverage “suffers” when it “does not look like the community it serves.”
“That’s not to say white reporters aren’t capable of telling authentic stories about people of color, but they may need to work hard to capture important perspectives or nuances within a story,” she continued.
To diversify the newsroom, Cassutt said MPR has started tracking the “diversity of the sources you hear on our station,” and has tasked producers and reporters with “taking note of the demographic background of every guest who appears on our shows and in our stories.”
“While not exhaustive, preliminary data from our most recent reporting period show that our on-air sources skew white, male, middle-aged and highly educated,” she said.
Other company initiatives will include “unconscious bias training for staff,” the development of a “tool to measure cultural competency across the organization,” and an “employee-led resource group for people of color.”
“As a white woman from a Midwestern, middle-class background, I know I have blind spots,” Cassutt wrote. “I come to this conference in a position of humility, not authority.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Nancy Cassutt” by Nancy Cassutt.
Background Photo “MPR News” by MPR News.