| Ocala Star-Banner
Journalists have been out on the front lines covering the renewed energy for dismantling systemic racism in the United States, and it’s time to bring that focus to our own newsrooms.
One important measure is diversity. At the Star-Banner, we have continuing work to do.
Our current staff of journalists includes one Black reporter and one Hispanic reporter. That means people of color represent 40% of our staff in Ocala. Jim Ross, the managing editor, is white and the only supervisor for the team.
When it comes to gender diversity, the picture right now isn’t good. We don’t currently have any women on staff in Ocala.
Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites make up 66% of the population of our region in North Central Florida, Black residents 16%, and Hispanics 13%. Women slightly outnumber men, with 52% of the population — perhaps not surprising for a region with so many retirees.
Our commitment is to reflect the diversity of our community by the year 2025. Newsrooms across our company, Gannett, are making the same commitment.
We also commit to be transparent about where we are not just today, but along the path toward reaching our goal. As editor, I’ll be reporting back to you from time to time about our progress. The newsroom contact page on our website will have a link to our data.
Diversity isn’t just about hitting a number. It’s about values and perspectives. In order for our journalism to accurately reflect the life of the communities we serve, we need people doing that work who understand these communities with authenticity.
So beyond hiring and promoting people of color, we need to make sure that our internal conversations and the conversations we are having out in the community are attune to the concerns and viewpoints that represent not just race and ethnicity but also gender identification, economic backgrounds, social and political perspectives.
Given a relatively small staff, where a single hire or promotion, or the decision by a staff member to leave for a new opportunity, can shift the balance significantly, our focus on diversity won’t be a finish line we cross at some particular date. It is a persisting value we are making as an organization.
It’s not a new direction for us. We have a proud history of hiring and promoting people of color, women and others from groups that historically have not been fairly represented in newsrooms in the United States, nor in other workplaces. My predecessor was a woman, as was her’s.
But expressing determination isn’t enough. And while I’m proud of our journalism, I’m not satisfied it is good enough.
Reflecting the diversity of our community in the composition of our staff is measurable. It’s also achievable.
Sustaining that diversity will require us also to empower journalists of color, women and other historically marginalized voices to shape our work. Good journalists don’t abide tokenism.
We are committing to building greater diversity and empowering it. I invite you to hold us accountable to that pledge.