Is your newsroom inclusive? Here’s how you tell


Keynote panel engages in conversation about Bechdel Test. (Darrian Graves/ONA Newsroom)

Wondering how inclusive your newsroom is — both with staffing and with its coverage?

Inclusivity is difficult to measure, but Public Radio International CEO and president Alisa Miller has a solution.

Her  Full Story Test asks three yes or no questions.

It’s based on the Bechdel test, named for author Alison Bechdel, which determines how much value is placed on female characters in a movie by asking three questions: Are there at least two women, do those women talk to each other and is the topic of conversation about something other than a man?

Answering yes to the following three questions from Miller means that your news organization is on the right path towards inclusivity.

1. Are our content priorities committing us to be more inclusive and to tell stories that aren’t being told?

2. Are we tracking the diversity of staff, leadership and our board? How do we measure up?

3. Do we regularly measure the diversity of bylines and sources? Do we have goals?

“On average, news organizations lack diversity in our sources, our experts and the people who are featured in the stories. Newsrooms do not reflect the diversity of the United States,” Miller said.

During Friday’s keynote session, “Do We Need a Bechdel Test for News? How Inclusiveness and Credibility Can Expand Coverage,” Essence editor-in-chief Vanessa De Luca said the diversity issue is multilayered, but the Full Story Test can start to foster a dialogue around it.

“I don’t know that it will help solve it,” she said. “I do think it’s a great way to introduce some of these ideas into the newsroom and to get people thinking about it.”

Studies show newsrooms are not reflecting their audiences as a whole. The Women’s Media Center found 59 percent of news staffers are men. The American Association of News Editors revealed that a little more than 12 percent of daily newspapers workers were African-American in 2014.

Define American’s CEO and founder Jose Antonio Vargas said diversity in a newsroom is not “a slice of a pie” but “the pan.”

“This is more than just one department. This is the whole thing,” Vargas said.

Vargas, who came out as undocumented immigrant, stressed that the United States’ population is more than just black and white.

“We are a country that has been defined since the very beginning by the black and white narrative,” he said. “And of course Native Americans are left out. But with a country with so much more Latinos and so much more Asian, the fact that this is the epicenter for biracial, multiracial people, how do we talk about race?”

De Luca said diversity in a newsroom should not be measured by a quota based on race and gender.

“I think it’s not just that and looking like physically seeing diversity but also diversity of thought and approach to different subject matter and making sure that you’re covering subjects and stories that a diverse range of people would be interested in,” De Luca said.

Blog Her CEO Lisa Stone said the organizations that have diverse teams outperform the others.

“Organizations that embrace diversity will succeed and cut through. Those that don’t? Will fail,” Stone said.

Tweets from the panel seemed to resonate with attendees — the keynote hashtag, #ONA16keynote, became a trending topic.