Knight Foundation invests $1.2 million in Maynard Institute’s new diversity, equity and inclusion transformation program

In-depth initiative will help newsrooms make structural changes in business models and workplace culture

MIAMI — August 5, 2019 — The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced $1.2 million in new funding for the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education to create an in-depth transformation pilot program for news organizations to help them better inform underserved communities and establish more equitable and inclusive workplaces. 

With Knight Foundation’s investment, Maynard will establish an Equity and Inclusion Transformation Program for newsrooms, building on its existing diversity training curriculum. The new coaching initiative will embed specialists in news organizations to assess the organization’s internal processes, analyze cultural dynamics, content and help establish core workplace values of diversity, equity and inclusion. Maynard will work with each news outlet to create the strategies, plans, benchmarks and training to implement these values.  

“This program is an opportunity to make transformational change around equity and inclusion in newsrooms across the country,” said LaSharah Bunting, director of journalism at Knight Foundation. “By focusing on structural changes in the workplace, the Maynard Institute is shifting the onus away from marginalized people and directly into the hands of the organization at large to shape a culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion.”

To launch the new initiative, Maynard will pilot the approach in two news organizations for six-month periods. The first pilot program will be conducted at a newsroom currently participating in the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, formerly known as Table Stakes. The second pilot program will be held at an outlet chosen through a competitive application process open to nonprofit, for-profit and independent news organizations across the country. The application will be released in late 2019.

“Given where we are in the discourse around our national politics, I cannot think of a more important initiative than this,” said Martin G. Reynolds, Maynard Institute co-executive director. “News organizations have been coming up short for decades on achieving the goals set forth by ASNE to have diversity in newsrooms reflect the diversity of the nation. If we are to survive as an industry, the stories we produce and the customers we seek to serve must see themselves accurately reflected. We must rebuild trust and relationships. To do that, we must start with ourselves, our newsrooms and our institutions.”

The Equity and Inclusion Transformation Program builds on Maynard’s legacy of diversity, equity and inclusion training in newsrooms across the country. For more than forty years, Maynard has pushed for diversity in mainstream news organizations through training efforts utilizing its acclaimed Fault Lines Framework. The Framework defines six “fault lines” through which every individual views the world: race, class, gender, generation, geography and sexual orientation. Maynard’s training helps journalists and news organizations understand how these fault lines influence coverage, portrayals, hiring and retention, marketing and engagement, and business and audience development. 

“Fault Lines is an excellent program and an invaluable framework,” said Evelyn Hsu, Maynard Institute co-executive director. “It’s a first step. But what we’re really talking about is getting at structural change. We see a deep-seated need to help organizations understand themselves and devise plans that take them from a conversation about diversity to becoming places that are equitable and inclusive in service of the very diversity they seek. It goes beyond the diversity of the people in a room. It is about recalibrating the culture of these outlets so they can actually serve a diverse society.”

The investment in this pilot program is intended to help establish a new consulting arm of the Maynard Institute, an outcome of a strategic planning process supported by Knight and Democracy Fund. Funding will also support Maynard’s ongoing participation in Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative programming and additional ongoing work from Maynard.

The funding is part of a $300 million Knight initiative focused on building the future of local news and information. As local outlets face erosion from consolidation, revenue declines and collapsing business models, many newsrooms struggle to maintain workplace diversity and coverage capacity. Knight Foundation’s investment will help ensure local news organizations stay relevant to and reflective of their communities by making structural changes to their business models and organizational cultures.

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org

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