Around the same time that the New York Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story, the publisher also launched its Gender Initiative.
The timing was coincidental, as the initiative had been in the works for quite some time.
"This was something we were going to do before, and #metoo burst onto the scene and changed the landscape in a way we cannot go back," said Francesca Donner, director of the initiative at The New York Times, speaking at the Women in News Summit on 6 June.
The initiative’s first goal is editorial, making a concerted effort to cover gender more deliberately. This is followed by a strategic goal to present the news in a way that is more appealing to a wider audience, as numbers show that the New York Times has more male engaged readers than female engaged readers, leaving the team "frustrated with the consumption gap in our work," said Donner.
The third goal is mission-based, looking critically at the news reports and assessing how they can be made more balanced and representative.
“Above all, we wanted to engage a more diverse audience. We started with women because it’s easy to measure and it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Donner.
The Gender Diversity Initiative is built around questions such as “whose voices do we share?”, she explained.
Looking at the sources NYT journalists use, the subjects they choose and whose stories the reporters choose to tell, as well as the roles women and men included in stories play are all key parts of the puzzle.
Are women more likely to be portrayed as victims, or are men quoted at length in stories where women only get a mention? One recent storytelling project looked at sexual consent on campus using a new interactive design.
Keeping visuals in mind is also important. A recent study form the European Journalism Observatory showed that not only are women less represented in European newsrooms than men, but they are also significantly less likely to be pictured in newspapers.
Donner highlighted the importance of keeping track of data related to these efforts in news organisations.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of tracking. Until you track, you really have no proof,” she said.
Embrace the leaks
Raju Narisetti, outgoing chief executive of Gizmodo Media Group and incoming Professor of Professional Practice and Director Knight-Bagehot Business Fellowships Program at Columbia Journalism School, also shared some strategies Gizmodo has adopted to work towards ensuring diversity at all levels within the organisation.
"Diversity is always a business imperative," he said, pointing out that by the next decade, white young Americans will be in the minority.
"Gizmodo wanted to be the go-to media company for young Americans. If you don’t have diversity in your staff, the chance is you’re not going to succeed."
As chief executive, he added, he’d keep track of numbers and send a snapshot to all staff, including links to data from other companies in order to see how Gizmodo was stacking up against them.
"The advantage of sending it out is that you really should hope that it leaks. That’s a good thing. This actually puts the pressure from the outside, you’re really on the hook now.
"Chances are that six to eight months from now some reporter on a slow day is going to say ‘let me find out how they’re doing’. It puts some pressure on you. You should embrace the idea that this leaks."
Promoting diversity within an organisation tends to be perceived as a matter or hiring and filling new jobs, Narisetti pointed out, but many of the problems start with non-retention and not developing talents.
He highlighted news organisations can also use software showing whether a job posting is unintentionally sexist and driving away women candidates.
At Gizmodo, every candidate who is a finalist for an open position has to meet with the chief executive – this puts pressure on the hiring managers to select a diverse group.
Having significant diversity among interns is also important, as well as considering geographical diversity alongside gender and ethnicity.
"Finally there is a tendency that if you’re a big media company you tend to hire from each other rather than building the pipeline," he explained.
"Rather than fearing people leaving, think to yourself how are we as leaders helping to build pipelines for the whole industry?"
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