Even as we march through Women’s History Month 2023, women are still not in the pink when it comes to wage equity. The latest data from Pew Research and the Center for American Progress (CAP) reveals a stubbornly persistent wage gap between genders. In 2022, American women typically earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men—a percentage that has barely budged in 20 years.
It’s not a good look for employers aiming to appear progressive and attract workers during a labor shortage. Especially when stated objectives contrast with reality – and the truth comes out. Gender Pay Gap Bot (@PayGapApp) on Twitter is again this year publicly calling out companies that mark Women’s History Month or International Women’s Day with celebratory tweets and ads but are not walking the walk of pay equity. The bot finds companies that tweet in support of women, and retweets exposing their gender pay gap.
Women more educated but paid less
The number of women holding at least a bachelor’s degree has surpassed that of men for 20 years and yet the wage gap has remained steady. Their income lags from the onset of their careers and then it falls even farther as compared to men’s wages over time. The pay gap between college-educated women and men is no narrower than that between women and men without college degrees.
In 2022, 48% of women held at least a bachelor’s degree as compared to 41% of men. U.S. median hourly earnings in 2022 were $20.60 and hour for women and $25 an hour for men.
In 2002, the number of women and men with at least a bachelor’s degree was about the same – around 31%. At that time, U.S. median hourly wages were $18.62 for women and $23.27 for men.
Intersectionality and the pay gap
The wage gap remains even wider for women of color and older women. In the U.S., Hispanic women bring home 65% of the median hourly earnings of white men. Black women fare only slightly better at 70%. White women earned 83% as much as their white male counterparts. Asian women had the narrowest gap at 93%.
Older women also fare worse. Women’s pay steadily decreases relative to that of men as they age, according to 2022 reports from CAP and Pew Research.
Women ages 25 to 34 earned about 92% as much as men the same age.
Women ages 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 earned 83% as much.
Women 55 to 64 earned 79% as much as men the same age.
Women 65 and older earned 73% as much as men the same age.
This is revealing considering that women’s caregiving burdens decrease after childrearing years. According to the CAP report, women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to have their careers affected by caregiving responsibilities.
30% of women ages 25-54 with minor children at home reported caregiving had an impact on their employment- compared only 3.7% of men with minor children at home.
12.9% of non-retired women 55-64 reported that caregiving had an impact on their employment- compared to only 2.4% of non-retired men the same age.
While women remain much more likely to be impacted in the workplace by caregiving responsibilities, older women are much less impacted than younger women- and yet their pay gap compared to men the same age widens.
This pattern has not changed in four decades, leaving women – especially single and divorced women- at greater risk of poverty in retirement. Wage stagnation impacts savings and social security, as well as the ability to pay down mortgage debt. Consequently, elderly women experience poverty at greater rates than men. Of women 65 and older, 17.1% of divorced women and 19.5% of never-married women had incomes below the poverty threshold, according to a 2022 report of the Congressional Research Service.
Concentration of women in pink collar jobs
Part of the pay gap relates to the over-representation of women in lower-paid sectors such as teaching, nursing, retail, childcare, and hospitality (though the media industry should certainly not count itself immune from this issue). This is a chicken-or-egg scenario. While the concentration of women in these fields may indicate more women feel drawn to “helping professions” it may also represent a longstanding societal de-valuation of work traditionally associated with women. Pink-collar jobs are critical to society- representing some of the labor hardest to outsource- but tend to garner low pay due in part to stereotypes of “women’s work” and women’s wages as merely supplemental.
New data shows women still greatly over-represented in education, with 73% of jobs in that sector held by women. More women are entering STEM professions but are still starkly under-represented in those higher-paying fields.
The number of women in computer, science, and engineering jobs grew from 19% in 1982 to 27% in 2022.
The number of women in media, legal, social, and arts jobs increased from 40% in 1982 to 56% in 2022.
The number of women in management grew from 26% in 1982 to 40% in 2022.
Fewer women entered the lower paying fields of administrative support, food preparation and food service. This may be related to women’s rising education levels.
The question of “choice”
Are women more likely to reduce hours or drop out of the workforce after childbearing by choice – or because the greater pay of male spouses makes it more financially feasible for the parent with lower pay to assume an unpaid caregiver role? Another chicken-or-egg quandary.
While fathers with children at home earn more on average than men without children at home, the reverse is true of mothers. Fathers do report spending more hours at work than mothers; however, the stereotype also persists of fathers as breadwinners and mothers as exercising their “choice” to work. Certainly, single mothers don’t have a choice about whether to work, nor do many women in families with lower household incomes.
The Association of Online Publishers’ (AOP) new report, Digital Publishing: Outlook and Priorities 2023, offers insight into this year’s top priorities for media companies – which unsurprisingly featured revenue growth. Publishers are also focused on talent and building a diverse and inclusive workplace.
As digital media companies look to grow their businesses, they assess internal strategies and external macroeconomic and legislative influences. Both publishers and solutions providers report being well-positioned for the year ahead and rate their confidence level a 7.2 based on a 10-point rating scale.
The AOP surveyed 92 digital publishers and 16 solution providers; 26% of respondents are at the board level in their organization, and 51% are heads of departments.
Internal business priorities
Revenue remains a top priority for publishers. Subscriptions (17%), sponsorships (15%), and lead generation (13%) rank as top revenue sources for growth among consumer-based publishers. B2B publishers see stronger growth opportunities in lead generation (28%), events (22%), and sponsorship (20%). Digital publishers targeting business and consumer audiences rank developing new revenue streams through product innovation as their highest priority (3.9).
Developing new audiences is important for revenue growth. To that end, consumer publishers work across multiple platforms to drive content discovery while B2B publishers are more reliant on LinkedIn (44%).
For advertising, publishers targeting consumer audiences report they depend more on advertising deals in the open marketplace. In contrast, B2B publishers divide more evenly across open and private marketplaces and non-programmatic. Further, 44% of all publishers expect revenue growth from private marketplaces and 42% from non-programmatic revenues.
Publisher respondents appear to be highly focused on their employees. Asked to rate how important different organizational priorities are [where 0 is not a focus at all and 5 is a very strong focus], B2B publishers ranked recruiting and retaining new talent as the most important priority, with a score of 4.1. Consumer publishers ranked ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace as the most important priority, at 3.9.
With new legislation a key focus, digital media companies are mildly confident of their knowledge of the UK’s Online Safety Bill. This legislation establishes a new regulatory framework to ensure tech companies protect users from illegal content and activity, specifically social platforms, and other user-generated content-based sites. Publishers rate their confidence in understanding the Online Safety Bill’s impact on their organization at 5.6 on a 10-point scale and solution providers at 5.3.
Some publishers report that their companies are preparing for this new law by consulting with their legal teams, providing a comprehensive editorial policy, and relying on browser options. However, many also reply that no actions are needed because quality content publishers do not target children.
Further, publishers’ confidence rating is 6.5 regarding their readiness for the end of third-party cookies, while solutions providers report lower confidence in readiness (4.8). Publishers prioritize their investment in first-party data and user experience in preparing for the end of cookies:
Enhancing the engagement funnel to build better first-party data (23%);
Implementing tech solutions to provide a 360-degree view of audiences (15%); and
Investing in solutions to deliver a more personalized user experience (15%).
With a strong focus on first-party data, 58% of publishers are working to ensure their audience informs their business decisions and their investment in a data-led organization. Another 21% highlight the importance of internally managing and communicating audience insights throughout their organizations.
The AOP provides a snapshot of important focus areas for the year. A strong confidence level among media companies reflects positive internal alignment on essential strategies to develop and grow their businesses further. They are focused on building a diverse and strong talent pool. In terms of strategy, they are taking an audience-focused strategy and look to diversify revenue growth beyond advertising sales and subscriptions and increase sponsorships, lead generation, and event revenues.
Social media platforms offer journalists a path to audiences and sources. They also give them a way to build their personal brands. However, social media also includes risks such as “dark participation.” We’ve all witnessed forms of dark participation, from hateful comments, manipulation of forums, and copious misinformation.
Journalists are often the target of online harassment. In many cases, these attacks specifically target African American, Latino, LGBTQ, Arab-American, Muslim, and Jewish reporters. As journalists face more online harassment, newsrooms are setting social policies to support and protect journalists from increasingly intense online abuse. But many journalists report concerns about social media’s policy development process in the newsroom.
And, while both groups face the highest risks, they have little control in setting social policies. Newsroom managers developing social media policies tend to be predominantly older, white men who are less active on social platforms.
Methodology and findings
Miller and Nelson interviewed 37 U.S. journalists. The interviews included 22 women and 18 journalists of color. By exploring the relationship between newsroom management and the journalists’ own experiences on social media, three key themes emerged:
Problems with newsroom social media policies.
Adjust policies through better representation within newsroom leadership.
Positive impact with better representation.
Journalism lags behind the national averages regarding the representation of diverse employees. A 2018 Pew Research Center noted that 77% of newsroom employees and reporters (editors, photographers, and videographers, in broadcasting and internet publishing industries) are non-Hispanic whites, compared with 65% of the U.S. Population. Further, among newsroom employees 30 and older, two-thirds are male, compared to slightly more than half of all U.S. workers.
Given the demographic composition of the newsroom, there is a disconnect between journalists who are active on social media and those setting social policy. Many social media policies often limit journalists’ comments because of concerns of bias.
Interviewees explain that anti-bias social media policies set by management often have a narrower lens and view social practices of demographically diverse journalists as biased. For example, some newsroom managers view the statement “black lives matter” as political and biased. Among younger and more diverse journalists, this statement mostly asserts equality.
Interviewees report feeling isolated when targeted with hateful comments because of their racial background. While some claim management is sympathetic, they report that those in leadership roles have limited empathy to understand the situation. Social media policies are also criticized because the policies for lacking depth in terms of protecting both the organization and the individual journalists.
Recommendation and positive change
Most interviewees suggest that younger and more demographically diverse journalists, especially those active on social media, should be included in developing newsroom social media policies. This starts with hiring more demographically diverse journalists in roles across the newsroom, especially in leadership positions.
Journalists with different roles and backgrounds working together allow for new conversations and offer more applicable social media policies, including to:
protect both organizations and journalists,
identify how to respond to social media harassment against their journalists; and
offer a more equitable response plan to accusations of bias against journalists on social media.
Miller and Nelsen conclude that “better representation in newsroom leadership hinges on a larger structural shift in newsroom culture that values representation, equity, and inclusion not just as a journalistic value, but as an organizational value.”
Increasing the diversity of newsroom journalists can reshape newsroom culture and allow organizations to better address mistreatment on social media. It also offers a stronger and more empathetic support system. it sends a message to journalists that they are not only important enough to be included in the decision-making, but a priority and asset worth protecting.
When brands connect to consumers through advertising content, it has an impact beyond selling products. Consumers are highly aware of what brands say, and what corporations do to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. Pragmatically, inclusive marketing makes sense, but how well is “purpose” integrated into the brand experience? A new report, LGBTQ+ and the future of CX from DISQO and Do the WeRQ, explores how people factor brand purpose into their purchase journey decisions.
DISQO and Do the WeRQ surveyed more than 9,000 people to explore the consumer experience with LGBTQ+ advertising content.
LGBTQ+ is the fastest-growing minority segment in the U.S., with an estimated $1.4 trillion in annual spending. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) used U.S. Census Bureau data to estimate that at least 20 million U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ+. That’s nearly 8% of the adult population. Additionally, about 21% of Generation Z in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ+.
This research shows that nearly three-quarters (74%) of people believe brands should get involved in social issues like DE&I, racial equality, gender equality, and social economics. Brands involved in diverse communities are recognized by consumers. Approximately 37% of participants in this research recall seeing LGBTQ+ ads outside of content made specifically for the community. Forty-seven percent of participants recall seeing ads within LGBTQ+ content. Those identifying as LGBTQ+ are more likely to recall seeing ads in content made for them (57%) but are less likely to recall seeing them in mainstream content (33%).
Almost half of those surveyed (46%) agreed or strongly agreed that advertising is adequately inclusive. More than half (52%) said LGBTQ+ ads felt “authentic.” Notably, 64% of people identifying as LGBTQ+ agreed that ads depicting their community felt authentic. However, older consumers are less likely to say that more LGBTQ+ content should be created.
Consumers recognize that brands are influential, and many want to see them exercise this power in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Eight in ten (81%) participants identifying as LGBTQ+ said that brands have some or a lot of influence. Close to half report that brands are essential in bringing about LGBTQ+ progress.
When asked if they ever think about a company’s social and political activities when making a purchase decision, 85% said they did. Less than 15% of people said they never considered this when purchasing.
Generationally, those under 44 years of age are more likely to align a brand’s social influence with their wallets: 18-24 (58%), 25-34 (58%), and 35-44 (57%). Further, 22% of those under 24 said they “always” think about where a brand or company stands when making purchase decisions, 24% for 25-34 and 25% for 35-44. The percentages decline as age increases, with only 12% of people 65+ saying they have these considerations.
Targeting content to LGBTQ+ is growing; this year, fewer people report “not seeing” any LGBTQ+ advertising versus last year (7% versus 20%). The line of cultural margins is shifting, and representation across media platforms offers more racial equality, gender equality, and social economics. LGBTQ+ visibility goes far beyond shout-outs in June. More representation of LGBTQ+ in advertising shows consumers that you see and value them.
Hispanic workers are underrepresented in the media industry compared to their representation in the rest of the U.S. workforce. Unfortunately, little progress has been made over the past decade when it comes to this under-representation, according to a new report on workforce diversity by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The report includes an analysis of data collected between 2010 and 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as data from other government agencies. Media industry subsectors studied include radio and television; cable and other subscription programming; motion picture and video; newspaper and periodical publishing; internet publishing and broadcasting, and sound recording.
The overall percentage of Hispanic employment in all aspects of the media industry over the past decade was 12%, compared with 17% for all industries. Hispanic women were even more under-represented, making up only 30% of Hispanics employed in media occupations. The report finds only an estimated 1% increase in Hispanic representation in media fields from 2010 to 2019, compared to the 3% overall Hispanic employment increase during the same period.
A big part of the problem is lack of representation at top levels of leadership, where there is most opportunity to shape the future of the sector. Only 4% of senior executives and managers in media companies are Hispanic, the report found, based on analysis of 2014-2018 data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The lack of representation is even more stark when it comes to Hispanic women. According to Census Bureau data drawn from 2015-2019, 10% of all media occupations during that time were filled by Hispanic people, and only 3% were Hispanic women. The disparity varied by subfield. For example, while 12% of media photographers were Hispanic, only 2% of those were women.
Of the 11% of actors that were Hispanic, only 4% were Hispanic women. Just 14% of television, video, and film camera operators and editors were Hispanic, of which only 3% were women. However, Hispanic women were more equally represented compared to Hispanic men in writing, editing, and news journalism.
Challenges to representation include:
Financial hurdles to entry and retention in media fields
Barriers to media-related education, including cost and awareness
Access to professional networks and internships
Difficulty meeting union requirements such as work experience levels
Lack of diversity among talent agents and other decision-making roles, which can result in the perception of lower demand
While Hispanic people remain under-represented in media careers, they are actually over-represented among consumers of motion pictures. According to a 2021 study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, 25% of movie-goers during 2007-2019 were Hispanic, generating in 1.7 trillion in consumer spending. However, only 4.2% of directors of the 100 top grossing films during that time were Hispanic (61 out of 1,447) and only three were Hispanic women.
A recent Nielson report reinforces this unbalanced situation. It found that, while all audiences are leaning into streaming, the story is more pronounced for Hispanic audiences, as 43.6% of Latinos’ total TV viewing in July 2022 was attributed to streaming platforms. However, the report also found that many Hispanics feel that accurate representation is in decline.
The Annenberg study also found that roles available to Hispanic performers often stereotyped Hispanic people as criminals or foreigners. Not only do Hispanic audiences deserve to see themselves fairly and accurately represented in media, but all audiences benefit from experiencing more realistic and multifaceted perspectives.
The data gap problem
A big problem for federal oversight is the data gap. FCC and EEOC efforts to enforce anti-discrimination and EEO rules have been hampered by problems sharing data among agencies, the unreliability of self-reported data from media companies, and a lack of data on union compliance and union member demographics. The federal report recommends better data sharing between the EEOC and FCC regarding discrimination charges filed, and an improved approach for obtaining demographic data from unions.
What can be done?
Federal agencies are conducting compliance evaluations, random audits, and periodic reviews, sharing best practices, and operating a training institute. The FCC formed a federal advisory committee that advises on issues such as how to facilitate entry of small businesses owned by women and people from historically disadvantaged groups into the media industry. The Department of Labor (DOL) sponsors apprenticeship programs, and the FCC started an incubator program for radio broadcasters.
Meanwhile, major media companies have announced measures including:
Targeted recruitment efforts
Partnerships with multicultural advocacy organizations
Processes to identify and address pay inequity
Targeted development programs, including incubators and apprenticeships
Strategic succession planning among leadership
Incentives for leadership such as making achievement of diversity and inclusion objectives a factor in determining performance bonuses
Funding initiatives such as allocating funds to support content created by members of underrepresented groups
For the next decade to result in more progress than the last, media companies need to hold themselves accountable for reaching the representation goals they’ve set and publicized.
When it comes to the representation and visibility of women across all media platforms, the industry still comes up short. That’s what The Status of Women In the US Media 2021, a report by Women’s Media Center (WMC), — an organization founded by Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan — found. Among the U.S.’s top five Sunday news shows more than two-thirds of the guests were men, and most of those guests were white men. While research into gender representation in prime-time broadcast and cable news, print, digital, and wires found that women told only 41% of stories, and just 15% of sports stories.
“This report will help to hold news media accountable for the persistent inequalities in media,” said Steinem in the report .“ Women must be visible and powerful in all aspects of media if American society is ever to be a real democracy.” While the struggle continues, strides are being made — thanks, in part, to top down initiatives.
The gender gap is closing — slowly
According to the Global Media Monitoring Project, things are slowly improving globally. However, the numbers make the U.S. media look like a beacon of hope in terms of inclusion and equality. Between 1995 to 2020, across 120 nations, the number of female news sources and subjects increased from 16% to 24% in newspapers, 15% to 24% in radio news, 21% to 26% in TV news, and 25% to 27% online.
Coverage during Covid-19 was particularly startling, with WMC reporting women comprised just 5% of experts in science, technology, engineering and math, and a third of people quoted in 146,867 articles about the pandemic, in the likes of The New York Times and USA Today.
“One productive step forward would be for media companies to release employment numbers by gender, race, and position,” said Julie Burton, President and CEO, in WMC’s report. “This transparency would allow comprehensive tracking of progress or regress for diverse women in the workplace. We recommend that managers and editors establish standards that require producers, bookers, and journalists to make sure the experts interpreting news stories include representative numbers of women and people of color to ensure that stories are told with authenticity and accuracy.”
Driving diversity with data
The WMC has a database for this exact purpose. SheSource connects journalists, bookers and producers with more than 1,000 female, media-friendly experts in a number of fields, ranging from politics to technology. It is these experts that a growing number of media organizations are seeking out and putting center stage. The BBC launched its 50:50 Project in 2016 to push for gender parity in its content using a data-driven methodology to monitor its content. What started in one newsroom has become a global initiative, used by 150 external partners, spanning 30 countries. These include the Financial Times, Australia’s ABC News and Times Radio, as well as partners in academia, conference businesses, law, public relations and the corporate world.
“It is well established in the BBC and we have got 750 teams filling in spreadsheets every day of every month,” says Miranda Holt, 50:50 External Partners Lead. “It’s very empowering to content makers, because it’s about what you can control. For example, we don’t count politicians or people in the news, but we do count the number of women we interview about that news. It’s about collecting data to effect change.”
In the most recent Impact Report report in March 2022, 61% of all BBC teams reached 50% representation of women in their content. While external partners (of whom 70 out of 145 shared their data) showed a 73% improvement in female representation, after one year of sharing data.
Bloomberg’s New Voices is another successful initiative, which has already made significant strides in amplifying the voices of women. Since launching in early 2018, outside guest appearances of women on Bloomberg Television have increased from 10% to 26%. The program has also provided media training to over 180 women all around the globe, who have gone on to appear more than 530 times on Bloomberg Television, as well as other media outlets.
Equity at every level
Another way to ensure gender equity in content, is to ensure equity in content creators. If the newsroom doesn’t reflect society, the content it produces isn’t likely to either. Even though women outnumber men in journalism programs and colleges, they become the minority voice soon after entering the workforce. On average, women represent 41.7% of newsroom employees and produce 37% of reports. Furthermore, men account for 69% of all newswire bylines published by the Associated Press and Reuters, 63% of prime-time news anchors or correspondents, and write 60% of all online news.
Emma Tucker is the first female editor of the Sunday Times in 100 years and says she is all too aware of the impact her newsroom has on its readership. “We are very conscious of the need to diversify our newsrooms,” Tucker says. “It’s a work in progress, but we are aware of it. For example, we encourage applications from as broad a pool as possible to our graduate and apprenticeship schemes and we are making strides there. We know that if we want to grow our audience and build new cohorts of Sunday Times subscribers, we need to produce content that matters to a more diverse audience.”
Holt agrees it makes good commercial and economic sense to increase female representation in the newsroom and beyond. While 50:50 is about content and not about content creators, it naturally has a knock-on effect.
“The BBC has set new targets for the end of 2023 for our workforce to aim for 50% women representation, 20% Black, Asian and minority ethnic, 12% disabled and 25% from lower socio-economic backgrounds,” explains Holt. “These figures are based on the demographics of the UK, and as the national broadcaster it’s the people of the UK who pay for BBC content, so we have to represent them. And senior leaders are being held to this.”
Leadership is at the heart of a recent report by Reuters Institute, which analyzed the gender breakdown of top editors in 240 major online and offline news outlets in 12 different markets, across five continents. The results are shocking with women representing just 21% of the 179 top editors, despite the fact that, on average, 40% of journalists are women. The good news is that the U.S. and U.K. appear to be flying the flag for female leaders in the media, as half or more of new top editors appointed there in the last year were women.
Closing the pay gap
Not only are there fewer female reporters, they also earn less than their male colleagues, according to the WMC report. At the Associated Press there is a pay gap of $15,000 between white, male journalists and black, female reporters, while female reporters on the LA Times take home $14,334 less than their male counterparts. Similarly, at the New York Times, for reporters with annual salaries of $150k or more, only 36% are women. Working at the Washington Post? Women can expect to be paid 86 cents for every dollar white men are paid.
However, there are exceptions. Walt Disney Co. has just released data on employee earning by race and gender for the first time, revealing that women earn 99.4% of men. However, as Natasha Lamb, a managing partner at Arjuna Capita who put forward the proposal for the report, points out: “Disney is stepping into an elite group that are showing leadership on pay equity.” Transparency, it seems, is still a rarity rather than the norm.
While we should applaud these organizations working toward gender equity there is still much work to do. One reason could be that leaders in news media across the world believe their organizations already do a good job in terms of gender diversity, and therefore do not collect or make available data about their diversity. Or they don’t even have anyone formally in charge of this vital process.
But this has to change. Greater transparency is key, with media companies releasing employment numbers by gender and position. While creating new talent strategies to support and promote women in media, will ensure the “pipeline” excuse is buried deep underground, once and for all. According to Katica Roy, the founder and CEO of Pipeline Equity, these strategies should include hiring, pay, promotion, performance, and potential.
Representation leads to engagement
The word “engagement” is constantly used in media circles, but you can’t engage with your audience without representing the diversity of their communities. “Ultimately, any company that creates content should be thinking about how they appear to the external world, and how they represent society fairly,” says Holt. “This leads to diversity in the workforce at every level in a dynamic way, by identifying people, progressing people, and retaining those people. Only then can the media and its content truly reflect and represent women. Only then we will truly have gender equity.”
DCN’s editorial director Michelle Manafy interviews Nicole Carroll, the Editor-in-chief of USA Today and Aja Whitaker-Moore the Executive Editor of Axioson Newsroom innovation: What’s the future of storytelling at the Collision conference, which was held in Toronto, Canada June 22-24, 2022.
[Full transcript below.]
WATCH/LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
I’m back! But I’m in good company. I’ve got some terrific speakers here joining me to talk about newsroom innovation. If we could, I feel like the topic is just huge. If maybe you’d like to kick us off with what the heck does it even mean?
You know, I think innovation now, in the olden days, it was always tech and what’s the next product? And what’s the next thing? And I think now honestly, it’s about engagement is like how do we truly authentically engage with our audiences. And that could be tech that could be in person storytelling, that could be, you know, lots of different ways. I also think innovation always is just about to keep moving forward, you know, every generation of journalists is going to do it a little bit differently. And I think we’ve got to find our way. So, I think about innovation, not just in a technology sense, but literally everything we do in hiring, and how do we fund our journalism? How do we connect with our audiences? We’ve got to keep moving forward.
Aja, anything you want to add to that?
No, I mean, I think you’ve covered a lot of it. And from the actors perspective, you know, we’re a startup. And so everything that we do is kind of innovative, in our opinion. And we were born of, you know, we thought a problem, which was, there’s too much information, and people don’t know how to keep up with it, they don’t know how to access it. And, you know, we think that our promise is innovative in the sense that we came up with a new format, came up with a new delivery mechanism, and are coming up with new ways to reach an audience on an everyday basis. So that’s our version of innovative, I think.
So let’s go back to Axios then for a second. How do product and editorial work together in your organization, and how do you drive innovation in that relationship?
Yeah, I mean, pretty closely, because, you know, like I said, you know, we are focused on smart brevity and packaging things in a way that people want to digest them. And that means that we’re mobile first. And that means that everything we do has to be looked at from a product perspective, how are we delivering lists in a mobile friendly format? How is our app working? How are we delivering products to people, you know, in the way that they want them. So we work really closely together with a product team that I think understands journalism and understands news in a way that is really important.
I mean: easy for you to say, “built from the ground up.” But let’s talk about USA Today. Like, is there a tight integration of product and editorial, editorial, huge,
we’re, you know, we’re one of the OG startups, but we were actually smart, brevity 40 years ago, and we’re pretty, you know, made fun of because of that. So I’m you know, I’m glad to see the world has, you know, come around to that you can get good information in smaller amounts of words or video. So I, I’m really proud of the work we’ve done. But yes, we are really tight with our product teams, the fact that we just want to call with them this morning. You know, we’re constantly looking at not here’s what we should do. But what is the outcome you’re looking for? And then working together? How do we get to that outcome? We try not to go into it with the solution you go into it with what’s the outcome you’re looking for, and what do we need to bring to that equation?
So one of the things you touched on in like your “what is innovation” was: staffing, diversity, leadership, those those issues… Can you tell me a little bit — let’s start with USA Today — about how you’re approaching leadership and recruiting with an eye to fostering innovation to fueling it.
It’s never been more important to recruiting and what we’re doing right now. And I don’t know if how many of you are in the industry. But there’s the great journalism shuffle going on right now. I mean, everybody is moving somewhere else. Right now, there’s a real fight for talent and leadership. And I think people want to be part of authentic companies, who are really trying to again, I always say our job is to spread truth, you know, to engage with our audiences. And so showing a path having mentorship programs showing an opportunity for leadership, showing industry leadership is really important to creating the culture that will keep people in our organization. We’ve made the pledge at Guenette, that we want our newsrooms to reflect our communities by 2025. And we measure ourselves every year against that benchmark around racial diversity. I measure it every quarter at USA Today and report that to the staff. I think it’s really important we hold a mirror up to ourselves and be really honest about how we’re doing.
How about Axios? What what what is the approach? How are you thinking about like, what is this newsroom? What is the staffing what does the leadership mean, to our ability to be innovative?
Yeah, I mean, I think we we agree at that at the start the diversity of our newsroom should reflect the diversity of our audience. And that will then you know, result in diversity of coverage and that’s really what we’re striving towards. You know, our founders are committed to that goal as well. You know, in the fall, we’re releasing a smart brevity book. And they dedicated the proceeds the advance from that book to fund a fellowship program that we’re really proud of where we’re focusing on hiring from diverse communities in underrepresented backgrounds, to mentor them into Axios. And focusing on developing a beat developing the next generation of leaders that we think is, you know, missing from journalism right now. And it’s something that is a part of, you know, our newsroom recruiting our newsroom leadership. Axios is led by two women of color. And myself, and our editor in chief, Sara Gu. And it’s something that we you know, walk, talk, live, breathe and think, is the future of innovation at our company and everywhere, so we’re really focused on it.
Alright, so let’s shift gears a little bit. We there’s been a kerfluffle, of late around the social presence of journalists online, rather spectacular, blow up, in fact, quite visibly on social media. For for Axios, let’s start there. How are you balancing the desire for reporters to have a social presence to leverage that social presence? With your standards?
Yeah, and when I think we’re, we’re not like, any, you know, we’re similar to every other media organization out there, that’s figuring out, you know, how to balance that, but we’ve been really proud of our track record so far, you know, in the past five years, you know, we we’ve really just said to our staff, we trust you. You arer adults. Represent yourselves represent Axios the way that you, you know, would expect to in public. And that’s actually what’s happened. So I think we are, you know, proud of how we’ve done it so far. And we’ll continue to act accordingly on social platforms, and still be able to share our journalism with the world engage with people in a responsible way. And I think we’re all doing that.
I know that at USA Today, the social presence is a big part of the work. So how are you setting your standards and communicating to your staff that this is important? But you still have to represent our brand.
Right? I mean, we know that, you know, our integrity and our fairness. And all of that is just the bedrock of what we are. And so we want to make sure that we represent our way ourselves that way. On social, we tell people, we want you to bring your authentic selves, we want you to bring your lived experiences. But obviously, we can’t slip into advocacy. And I say this all the time: The power you have as journalists, to choose stories to tell stories to spread stories, is so much more power than you’re going to have in that tweet. And so you know, again: Bring your true selves, bring your authentic selves, but but let’s not tip into advocacy that could harm the integrity of our brand.
So I think another issue digitally in particular is the 24 hour news cycle, right? We’re all facing this kind of pressure to constantly be online, constantly be informing our our consumers. But how are you balancing the 24 hour news cycle with your again, with your standards and your goal to provide actual, trustworthy news?
Well, we’re really lucky and that we’re spread across the country from, you know, Washington all the way to LA. And then we also have a London bureau. So, we really are on 24/7, which, which makes things a little bit easier. But you know, I tell people 100 times out of 100, I’d rather be second than wrong. 100 times out of 100. So if you’re ever in doubt, don’t do it. Double check it triple check it, I’m going to be fine. If we’re last as long as we’re right.
I see a lot of scoops and exclusives at Axios. So how about you? Is there a difference there? Is there pressure?
Yeah, Imean, I think that our philosophy is a little bit different. We’re not there to deliver you every piece of news. We’re there to deliver you what you need to know, and the things that are important. And so I think that our model is a little bit different in that we package our version of the 24 news cycle into a newsletter suite. So if you’re getting Mike Allen’s AM, and PM and Finish Line newsletters, that’s what we call our daily essentials. And he’s set a really diverse kind of breakfast table for you in the morning. Happy Hour, four in the evening. And he’s telling you the stories that you need to know and so we’re curating that and packaging that I think in a different way than you know, a news wire or or a news organization that’s giving you breaking news 24/7.
It’s interesting. We used to call those “newspapers” where we curated what you need to know i the course of a day. I do think it’s interesting. The last panel was very much touching on this deluge; this fire hose, and how we can discern. And of course you know, I advocate for trustworthy sources like y’all.
All right. So, innovation in delivery and formats. I know you specifically mentioned Axios being mobile first. And I think that’s for a little while there that was almost a cliche industry. But I think it’s, it’s a given, is it not? Are you thinking a lot about innovating in terms of say, Tik Tok? Let’s just throw out like, are you looking at new formats?
Tick Tok? Not so much. Not yet. I mean, we have experimented, I think on all the platforms, you know, we do Twitter spaces, we do curated videos on You know, on Instagram, I think Tik Tok is an amazing platform. And a lot of I think publishers have figured out a great way to do it. But I think it actually is we, you know, right now, you know, we really are interested in podcasts, we’ve found a way to tell long form stories in smart brevity, through audio, which, you know, is is challenging, but we’ve done it with our How it Happened podcast series. It’s got, you know, 3 million downloads, and it’s really resonating with the audience. And we also have, you know, a daily podcast that we think is, you know, really innovative and how we’re telling stories in, you know, 10 minutes a day, and our audience is telling us, you know, they can’t get enough of it. So, I think that’s definitely interesting to us. You know, we just hired our first SEO editor and we’re really focused on you know, packaging our stories for social and, you know, making sure we’re we’re meeting people where they are.
I know that social audio has been really good for you guys too. How about USA Today. What do you do?
Well, it’s funny: I was just checking or TikTok I think we’re just checking to see how many followers I think we’re over a million somebody check me so we’re over a million and when we you know, I love it. My son’s 16 He gets all his news on Tik Tok. So whenever we show up in his feed, he’s really proud. He’s like, there’s my mom. So I mean, we’re gonna be in the spaces where people are, we’re doing Twitter Spaces, we were on Clubhouse, we were doing all the things. Really, it’s because we just want people to know that we’re there with the information they need, again, whether it’s Instagram, or Tik Tok, or a newsletter, or a podcast. And it just helps the overall reach and hopefully, you know, to your point about trust and media, if they see us enough, if they see that we’re right enough, if they see that we’re responsible enough, I want to develop that trust. And so I think it’s not just about the audience. It’s about developing that relationship and trust and like, Oh, I’ve seen you three or four times now. You know, I I know your real I know, you’re a trustworthy news source. And that’s really important to me.
Yeah and that’s interesting, because you both mentioned, you know, being where they are.
But then your values like perpetuated values and your ethos there to build that trusted relationship.
Well, it’s funny when the last join some of the January 6, and we made some decisions about, you know, we didn’t errors, certain of Donald Trump’s speeches, because I did, they were misinformation, and we chose not to air them live. We would go back and we would package them so we could fact check them before we did it. I actually went on Tik Tok. And I told people why we were doing that. And I did a video like: Hey, here’s we may be hearing about this. And this is why we’re doing that we think it’s important to fact check before we put information out there. So it was kind of fun to be able to talk directly to that audience
Addressing that that demand for immediacy. Head on,
We want it now. But here’s why we’re not.
Why don’t you tell me each of you just very quickly, a project or product that you’ve done recently that you feel is particularly innovative?
Sure. I mean, I think Axios local is probably our biggest project of the year. And, you know, talking about rebuilding trust, we want to meet people in their communities, and talk to them about the economic situation where they live, the lifestyle opportunities, where they live, also, the political landscapes where they live. So we’ve stood up in 17 cities, and we’re going to be in, I think, another 25 by the end of this year. So, we’re really proud of that expansion and trying to recapture some of what’s been lost in the local news landscape. And, you know, it’s really resonating with audiences, we’ve had over a million subscribers in those local markets, generated, you know, 5 million in revenue last year from loca. And so we think that’s, you know, a really big part of the future of Axios. And hopefully the future of restoring trust and journalism in America.
No small feat.
Yeah, just a little, just a little project.
Just a Tuesday. How about at USA Today?
Sure. Well, I really hope you guys will check out some of the AR we’ve been doing. And again, this leans more into the tech, but it’s really cool tech. So you can we did a series this past year on 1961 and the importance of what happened in 1961, around voting rights to what’s happening today. And our AR team built this amazing experience where you could actually ride the bus as it was being attacked by rioters and you can hear the story and you can you can you can hear we brought in historical video and audio. And you really feel like you can see the flames around you and you are really immersed in that experience. So, you know, again, we’re trying to bring the truth to people and help them understand news that empathy that you get from immersive storytelling is really important. Not just reading it; you’re experiencing it. So really proud of some of the work we’ve done on AR.
That’s a great example. Just before we’re done here: How about something that you think that everyone is talking about in media right now, that maybe is hype or that maybe you’re a little skeptical about?
Just in general?
In the digital media industry. Hype cycle?
I don’t know,
Alright, we can do NFTs? [laughter]
Well, we do have a newsletter that covers crypto and I think we do talk about that, you know, quite a bit. And NFTs have their place in the crypto world.
Unknown Speaker 15:48
Oh ho ho. No, it doesn’t have to be NF T’s. Metaverse can do another one. You guys bullish?
I mean, I think the Metaverse is interesting. If you think about it from the standpoint of like, we’re just building it now. You know, we don’t actually know what it’s going to be.
Is it going to be the Facebook-averse. Is that? Or is it going to be an open platform?
I guess it depends on who you ask.
We’re not going to ask Mark. Apparently, he didn’t want to talk to us about this.
Which is weird. So weird. I mean, I think we just have to keep moving forward. Like I said at the beginning in all these spaces, and here’s the cool thing, we get to invent them, right? We get to say what they’re gonna be. So that’s awesome. We’re like, you know, I know, there’s a lot of stress in media right now. But I’m really excited about where we’re at right now in media, we’re, we get to invent the future. And that’s pretty cool.
All right. The very last thing: leadership, like if you are looking out into the industry, and you want to just impart one piece of wisdom about leading an innovative team, no pressure. Aja: pressure.
I mean, I think it’s really just about having a culture of activation and being able to experiment with an idea and nurture it from experiment, you know, to fruition. I think we do that, you know, every day at Axios. And really, every day in media. Every day, we’re writing a story. It’s like, you know, where’s this going to take us at? Where’s this gonna go? And just continuing, you know, to do that?
I love that.
Yeah. I think it’s all about the people. No matter what you do, you’ve got to create the culture. You’ve got to believe in people you’ve got to have, I think I call realistic optimism. We are in a tough world. But you realistically have to think “we can do these things.” And you have to impart that to people. You have to have a culture of “yes, let’s try it.” What can you do? What can you do in a month? What can you do in two months? We have to keep moving forward.
Love it. Well, thank you both. I sincerely appreciate this. It was a great conversation and went to fast.
DCN is proud to support our members and the health of the digital media industry overall. Thus, we are pleased to share some of the incredible work our members and other media companies are doing to recognize Juneteenth and its cultural significance in the American experience.
Anita Zielina founded the Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership at CUNY in 2019. Since that time, she has shaped the leadership skills of executives from local media, start-ups and major outlets such as The New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, and ProPublica.
“I just built the program that I wish I had a bit earlier in my career,” explains Zielina. Like so many in our industry, she says “I started out as a journalist and I never had the management training, the product training,” she says. “I never learned how to speak the language of the business and strategy side of things.”
An Executive MBA at INSEAD, addressed some of those needs, but “there was not one other person from media in my class,” Zielina observes. In a cohort of 120 people, all of her peers were from consumer brands, oil and gas consultancies, banks, and the like. Nonetheless, she says, “I loved the experience.” But she could see that there was a need for such a program tailored to the media industry.
Zielina has set out to fill this need at CUNY. She built a program offering elements of a traditional MBA – with classes on strategy and organizational change – alongside a “comprehensive leadership growth development program,” and a focus on media best practices.
In a wide-ranging interview, Zielina – who is returning to Austria to launch her own consultancy focused on digital and leadership transformation – shared her views on the key challenges facing the news and media industries.
Here are five of the core elements that emerged from our conversation, with a focus on supporting future leaders – and the challenges facing them – in the media industry:
1. Training the next generation of leaders
Zielina has extensive leadership experience in media including stints as Chief Product Officer & Editor-in-Chief Digital at the Swiss-based NZZ, Digital Editor and Deputy Editor-In-Chief at Stern the German current affairs magazine, and as an Editor at the Austrian newspaper Der Standard. Looking back at previous roles she says, “I think I did a decent job. But I had to teach myself a lot of the skills you need as a leader.”
Those skills include an ability to navigate the intersections of business product, audience, editorial, technology and innovation. They are not necessarily acquired in the newsroom, she suggests, and the media context is often missing from traditional business programs.
“Our industry has a tradition of people rising to leadership roles,” she says. “They were great journalists. Then suddenly they become managers, and they do not get the support that they need.”
The need for this type of support is clear when looking at the graduates from CUNY’s executive programs. “Half of the people in that cohort that just graduated have taken on a larger role throughout the year or immediately after the program,” Zielina told us, “either in their own organization or in a different organization.” The training CUNY provided has been crucial to enabling them to effectively step into these leadership roles.
Shortcomings in communication, as well as the need for strategy to continually evolve and be updated, are key factors. Even when strategy exists, she says “it’s not clearly communicated. In other cases, the strategy “is old, it’s faulty, it needs to be adapted to new challenges.”
To address this, Zielina encourages leaders to think about whether their organization is prepared for transformation. They must focus on which audiences they want or need to reach, and how to ensure that appropriate resources are prioritized. Integral to this is a “talent pipeline” as well as clarity about the type of work culture you want to instill.
“The difference between an organization that successfully manages transformation, and an organization that doesn’t, is not necessarily that one has a strategy paper or slide deck while the other does not.”
At the heart of this are leader who can turn strategy “into products, into audience work, into services, into organizational structures, and the daily execution routine.”
3. Detoxifying the workplace
Implementation is about more than just the products you build, and the platforms you use, Zielina reminds us. People, ethics, and culture must not be overlooked.
The workplace is an area in which she believes change is long overdue. If not, then talented people will leave. For good. In fact, Zielina says, many are already gone.
She notes a generational shift whereby Millennials and Gen Z “are not willing to put up with the not-so-great culture and ethics anymore.” “They are opting out,” she says. Unfortunately, “these people are never going to come back if we lose them now.”
According to Zielina, the size of this issue is one that too few industry leaders grasp, although she believes the trend is “becoming more obvious.”
“Younger colleagues in this industry, are waking up to the fact that they don’t have to stay in places that are toxic. They don’t have to stay in places that don’t let them have impact.”
“I think it’s the big the big issue that we’ll have to tackle the next few years,” she says.
4. Making DEI commitments a reality
“A lot of tensions obviously revolve around women, people of color, [and people] from different socio-economic backgrounds, finally saying, ‘I want a seat at the table. And if I don’t get a seat at the table, I’m going to leave.’ So really prioritizing DEI is so crucial.”
Zielina feels that “there was a certain reckoning after the murder of George Floyd and we see movement there.” However, many organizations are failing to deliver on their DEI promises.
Too often, she says, we hear companies say “yes, we are prioritizing, but it was so hard to find a woman and it was so hard to find that person of color. So we took another white man, but next time, we’re definitely gonna do it.”
“If we don’t tackle the big underlying cultural issues of this industry, if we don’t make this industry more attractive, if we don’t make this industry more equitable, if we don’t make this industry a healthier, better and more supportive space, we are going to lose all those people,” she adds.
5. Updating outdated modes of human capital
Making the industry more attractive, Zielina suggests, includes learning from the creator economy and the great resignation.
“More folks are realizing maybe I don’t want [to work for] an employer, maybe I want to do my own thing. But I don’t want it to be a kind of hockey stick startup with venture capital, I just wanted to work for me. I want to tell my stories. I want to serve my audience, who I care about.”
“We are going to see more of that,” she says, which means rethinking collaboration and working with creative/journalistic talent. She also believes we will see increased emphasis on impact, flexibility, and hybrid work – issues that matter to growing numbers of the workforce.
“There is a huge disconnect between the corporate world, and specifically corporate HR and applicants and employees,” she cautions. “And this disconnect is getting bigger.”
“You can start that tomorrow,” she says, urging organizations to ask “whether our incentive systems, our HR processes, our way of work is still adequate for this day and age.”
After she leaves CUNY, Zielina plans to continue to focus on ensuring organizations have the structures, skills and talents they need, “in the space of digital leadership and product.”
Zielina sees signs that a famously myopic industry is starting to look beyond national markets for solutions. “It makes me optimistic that it seems that we are getting a bit more global and a bit more international as an industry,” she says.
“Those best practices are really starting to be shared across borders, and that that I think is an a fantastic development. We need more of that,” Zielina adds, “and I hope to play a part in that in at least bridging that gap between the U.S. and Western Europe.”
“I had seen diversity initiatives flounder because they were too complicated or too negative an experience for people to take on.” BBC News presenter and 50:50 The Equality Project founder Ros Atkins told researchers at Behavioural Scientist in November 2020.
Atkins had created a data-driven initiative in 2017 to increase women’s representation on media content. According to the academics, it was “easy, attractive, social, and timely.”
While we see the challenges news organizations face as they seek to better represent society as a whole, we also see progress. That is progress that we, at 50:50, are keen to build upon.
Equity: Moving beyond gender
No pressure then as we look to move 50:50 beyond gender. The Behavioural Scientist article came out a month after the BBC announced that we were doing just that. We sought to see if 50:50 could increase disability and ethnic minority representation on media.
In October 2020, as the leader of the BBC’s 50:50 product, I voiced my belief that we could learn from how we had increased women’s representation in order to extend the scope of our work. That belief has been validated by the latest 50:50 Impact Report, which reveals the BBC’s data beyond gender for the first time.
Five years on from when 50:50 started, I believe we have demonstrated the benefits of increasing the diversity of voice on media content. Now, we need to sustain that. This year’s results builds on the progress made so far. It sets the foundations for further innovation that will further support content-makers in their mission to reflect the world around them.
Changing for the better
By March 2022, 250 BBC content teams had voluntarily signed up to monitor the disability and/or ethnicity make-up of their output. The good news is that the project continues to move the needle – in a range of areas of equity and representation.
Of those who submitted March data, 21% reached their disability target compared to 15% when they first started monitoring. For ethnic minority representation half reached their target, up from 47%.
Long term change
Some may argue that these sound like small increases. But to be frank: Any improvement is a good sign. I say this, knowing what pilot phase looked like. Some teams were starting at zero representation for disabled people. However, they persevered to move the dial.
Also, this project is about playing the long game. Equity and representation is not one and done. Far from it. The data suggests major gains can be made over time.
Of those monitoring disability for more than 18 months, 53% reached their targets in March. That’s up from 18% when they first started and a 35-percentage point increase. For teams monitoring ethnicity, over the same period, there was a 7-percentage point increase – up from 58% to 65%.
Lara Joannides, the BBC’s Creative Diversity Lead for 50:50, acknowledged there a lot more to do to increase diversity of voice on media content across the board.
“These results are an important milestone as we apply 50:50’s core principles for disability and ethnicity representation. They provide a solid foundation for us to build upon,” said Joannides. “This data allows is us to understand where we can improve, so now we need to go out and find more voices to create content that really reflects society.”
How it works
So how is 50:50 increasing diversity of voice? 50:50 is all about understanding where we are now, so we can make change for the future. Whether its disability, ethnicity or gender representation, 50:50 teams use the core principles Ros Atkins devised in 2017.
Using data to effect change, sees content-makers monitor their content in almost real-time. It mean they can share how they are doing at the next team debrief. Together, the team then decides on any actions needed to reach their monthly target.
Measure what you control, gives the framework for how teams monitor. As I often say, “you can’t change what you can’t control.” That goes for who appears on your control too. So, 50:50 teams are only monitoring who they choose to put on their output.
Never compromise on quality, is the paramount principle. The best contributor must always take part. 50:50 is about enriching storytelling with diversity of voice. To do that that voice has to be the best. As Atkins said, in relation to women, in Behavioural Scientist: “50:50 is not about keeping excellent men out of our programs—it’s about finding many more excellent women contributors.”
While the principles are a terrific foundation, you need to set tangible and realistic goals in order to move forward. When it came to increasing women’s representation it felt like a no-brainer. Overall, teams aim for 50% female contributors over the course of any given month. It is the reason our grassroots initiative is called 50:50.
These targets become more complex when you look at monitoring disability and ethnicity. In general, BBC UK teams work towards the Corporation’s diversity targets: 50% women, 20% Black, Asian and minority ethnic, and 12% disabled representation.
However, teams will adjust those targets in line with their specific audience demographics. For example, when it comes to ethnic minority representation for BBC Scotland, they would be aiming for 8% in line with their population. Meanwhile, BBC London is working towards a 50% target to reflect their audience.
Collecting the data
Armed with targets, teams need to collect the data. 50:50 has created two tailored approaches to collect data for disabled contributors and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
As Joannides explained: “One is by perception, which is how 50:50 has always been done for gender. This means counting based on any publicly available information we have about the contributor. Whether it’s from social media or something they’ve told us themselves. Then the other way, which a small group of teams do, is by collecting actual data.”
Collecting actual data tends to be forms based. This method is being rolled out by BBC Devon across their daytime programming after a successful pilot, and also by 50:50 partners The British Fashion Council.
50:50 gender challenge
It is the second year that 50:50 partner organizations have published their March data alongside the BBC. The 50:50 partner network now spans 30 countries and includes 145 organizations from a wide range of sectors.
Miranda Holt, the external partners lead for 50:50, said the network had grown by 45 new members in the last 12 months.
“We work closely with NHK in Japan, and now reach as far as Mongolia – working with the Media Council there,” said Holt. “50:50 continues to expand in communications companies, law firms, industry regulators and the financial services sector. These organizations show how the 50:50 principles can be applied to any created content – from websites to events to publications. “
Overall, 72 partners submitted their data, up from 41 partners in 2021. Almost half (47%) reached 50% women. For those below the target of 50% women when they first started monitoring, 73% saw an improvement in the gender balance of their content.
As for the BBC when it comes to increasing women’s representation, 61% reached 50:50 compared to 35% when they first joined the project. The proportion of teams reaching 50:50 went up to 69% for those monitoring gender for at least four years.
What I find most heartening is that BBC audiences continue to notice an increase in women’s representation. And many are enjoying content more as a result.
In March, a survey of 2,032 BBC online users found that of women aged 16 to 34, 62% enjoyed content more. That’s up from 57% on the previous year, and 68% were consuming more content, an increase of 10 percentage points.
A 50:50 future
This year the BBC is celebrating 100 years of broadcasting. The Corporation’s mission continues to be about delivering value to all audiences, whoever and wherever they are.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie said: “The 50:50 Project plays a crucial role in finding new voices and helping us better reflect the audiences we serve.” He added: “It’s already made a huge impact on the BBC and our global partners. There’s potential to do so much more.”
And there is more to come, as BBC Creative Diversity Director June Sarpong explained: “50:50’s next steps will be to gather data on the representation of class within BBC content to see how well we reflect socio-economic diversity and – crucially – where we need to improve.”
She continued: “Can it be done? Well, as James Baldwin says, ‘nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ So it is heartening that 50:50 is starting to face this.”
Diversity in news media matters because it offers a voice to underrepresented communities and helps provides education to break down the barriers of prejudice. When the news media provides structural diversity – hiring, retention, and promotion – it better reflects the audiences it serves, and more accurately portrays society.
A recent study, Race and Leadership in the News Media 2022, from Reuters Institute, evaluates leadership diversity in the newsroom. The research includes a sample of 100 major online and offline news outlets in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S.
Key findings for the ten top online news outlets and ten top offline news outlets in each of these markets:
In total, 21% of the 82 top editors identify as nonwhite, compared to 43% of the general population across the five countries. However, excluding Africa from the analysis means only 8% of the top editors are nonwhite compared to 31% of the general population.
At the time of the analysis, Brazil, Germany, and the U.K. did not have a nonwhite top editor. In contrast, 33% of top editors are nonwhite in the U.S., increasing from 18% in 2021. Further, in South Africa, 73% of top editors are nonwhite, increasing from 60% in 2021.
Many journalists highlight the importance of diversity in the newsroom and its important impact on editorial decision-making. The Reuters research measures diversity in the newsroom and tracks its progress compared to industry studies across the globe.
Tracking change in the marketplace
American Society of News Editors (ASNE) research surveyed 293 news organizations in the U.S. in 2018. The study found that 23% of the newsroom employees included people of color represent and 26% for online-only news organizations. The research also shows that 79% had at least one woman among their top three editors, and 33% had at least one minority journalist in a top-three position.
The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) in the U.K. used the 2020 Labour Force Survey (LFS) data to identify diversity in journalism. Their report shows women employed in journalism as a majority (53% compared to 47% of men). There was also a slight decrease in the proportion of white ethnic groups (94% to 92%) in journalism compared to 2018. Journalists working in the U.K. increased from 78,000 in 2018 to 96,000 in 2020. However, nonwhite journalists did not grow proportionately.
In Germany, the New German Media Makers (NdM), a nonprofit association representing media professionals with immigrant backgrounds, conducted research in 2020 among 126 editors-in-chief and 122 editorial offices. The study found only 6% of the editors-in-chief have an immigrant background. While most editors-in-chief generally rated diversity in editorial offices as necessary, they did little about it. The NdM made three important recommendations to editors-in-chief and closely monitor the news media.
Report for the whole society: diversity in a program or publication can increase reach, circulation, and opportunities to employ people from immigrant families.
Decision-makers must develop a strategy to attract journalists and staff with immigration histories.
Disclose diversity data transparently, create clear targets, and document.
News media owners and their editors need to accelerate diversity initiatives in their organizations. Reuters research and the previous studies show a slow transformation of the newsroom with nonwhite journalists and editors under-represented. Importantly, transparency and documentation are essential to share best practices for building a diverse newsroom across the globe.
No other business sector has more cultural relevance than media. Media shapes perception, but public perception deeply affects the media industry. Because of this, media companies need to identify the social discussions and issues in society and find a balance in addressing them without alienating their audience.
Reviews of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting frameworks, investor indices, and recent (2019 or later) materiality assessments published by companies participating (Axel Springer, BBC, Dentsu, ITV, and others) in the Responsible Media Forum.
Interviews with senior sustainability practitioners from media companies, including advertising, broadcast, entertainment providers, news publishing, and telecommunications.
Interviews with external experts, including ESG thought-leaders, investors, policymakers, non-governmental, organizations, and third sector (non-profits, social enterprises, cooperatives, etc.).
Identifying material issues
To build trust between a media company and its target audience, a company needs to take responsibility for its role in, and take a stand on, meaningful issues. There are consequences when a company fails to act. For example, Disney and its CEO, Bob Chapek face backlash due to company’s donations to Florida politicians who support the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Critics of Disney felt that that the company did not stand up for its LGBTQ employees, cast members, and guests. And fallout thus far has included widespread media coverage, employee walkouts and a public apology.
These sorts of situations are becoming increasingly prevalent. Thus, it is critical for organizations to understand the issues that are significant to staff, stakeholders, and their customers.
Responsible Media Forum defines material issues as “financially significant over the short to medium term.” These have the potential “to affect a key financial indicator, e.g., profits or revenue, by around five percent or more within two years.” These issues were found to be material: climate change, cyber security data privacy, diversity, equity & inclusion, people management, responsible content, skills development, sustainable value chain, and well-being.
Interestingly, both fake news and net neutrality are no longer identified as material issues as they were in the 2018 report. Important material issues for publishers to incorporate into their best practices.
Responding to material issues
While the media’s carbon footprint is relatively small, integrating climate change content can encourage behavioral shifts in society.
Data privacy is an essential practice of media companies. With privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), becoming standard practices, publishers should communicate how they collect and use consumer data.
In 2018, the Responsible Media Forum now includes “equity” as part of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Equity refers to the creation of a level playing field and increased commitment to diversity in both developing and retaining talent and entry-level recruitment. This is an important issue among those under 40 years old. DCN’s research on Gen Z Digital Media Attitudes, Values & Behavior shows that both Gen Z and Gen Y see this as the foremost issue companies should care about today.
Responsible content is crucial for publishers. Media companies are responsible for their content across their portfolios and usage of intermediaries. Related concerns include diversity of output, editorial compliance, creative independence, transparent and responsible editorial policies, freedom of expression, impartial and & balanced output, and promotion of causes.
Media companies must invest in their employees. Skill development, including training and mentoring, are strong retention tactics, especially against tech platforms.
A sustainable value chain is important to manage. Media companies need to manage the upstream and downstream of their supply chain beyond their own needs to support.
The 2018 report expanded the definition of well-being to include a focus on mental health. With the Pandemic and employees working from home, it’s no surprise that mental stress is an integral part of the wellness category.
Other areas to watch
In addition, the Forum identified three additional categories to determine whether an issue did not meet its materiality threshold but still represented an important matter.
Strategic: an issue that can significantly affect the ability of the company to deliver its strategy in the medium to long term.
Operational: an issue that matters for internal, reputational, and efficiency but is neither material nor strategic.
Emerging: an issue that is not yet widely on the radar of a company but is increasing in importance and expected to become a material or strategic issue within the next two years.
Media plays a critical role in reflecting and responding to the needs of society. This report provides a starting point for media companies to access material issues and other key areas of potential concern in order to better meet audience expectations.