Diversity Report 2021

As a journalism support organization, INN is committed to reflecting, in our organization and our work, the full breadth of the U.S. communities that are served by INN, directly and through member news organizations.

Nonprofit newsrooms, founded as public trusts with a mission of public service, have the opportunity to reinvent news media as truly inclusive watchdogs of the rights of every person, and the free speech and civil rights of every person living in this democracy. Because they put journalism before profit, nonprofit news outlets more often report from and for communities that commercial news media have abandoned as unprofitable. INN is committed to helping mission-driven news organizations reach the goal of a truly inclusive news media, and to live it in our own work here at INN.

Diversity is part of INN’s mission and vision. We are in the process of weaving it throughout all of our strategies and programming, and it has been a specific focus within our leadership development programs.

INN’s Staff and Board Composition

INN grew from a staff of six in 2015, then all white, to a staff of 17 as of February 2021. During this period, the membership tripled. INN today supports roughly 4,000 staffers working at more than 300 nonprofit news outlets. Annual participation in INN programming grew five-fold in the same period.

In this time of rapid growth for the field, INN has been able to increase the diversity of our staff and board, and we intend to continue this trend in order to better reflect the country we serve. INN had been aiming for a board and staff representation of 35% people of color. Anticipating what we expect the next census to show, we’re now aiming to reflect a population that is roughly 60% white and 40% Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).

As of February 2021, INN’s staff of 17 is 53% white and 35% people of color, including people who identify as Black, Latino, Asian, and Middle Eastern/North African. Among managers, 60% are white and 30% people of color. (Six percent of the staff, and 10 percent of managers, have not specified a racial or ethnic identity.) We’re about 60/40 women to men, both in management and overall.

Looking at other measures of diversity, INN currently includes  12% LGBTQ staff and no veterans or disabled individuals.

The INN board is 55% white, 45% BIPOC.

INN’s Membership Composition

At the end of 2020, based on data from our annual Index survey, INN’s 285 publishing members included about 100 with people of color in executive leadership roles (that generally means in the top business, editorial or overall leadership positions). About 108  of our members serve communities of color as part of their broader audience, including about 50 that define their primary mission as creating content for, about, and/or with communities of color.

For more details, see our DEI report from last year: INN Index 2020: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Nonprofit News. We’ll publish more up-to-date diversity data this spring. 

When INN began tracking member diversity in 2016, we found eight out of roughly 100 member organizations that had leaders of color and/or primarily served communities of color. So the diversity of our membership has outpaced overall growth over the last five years, but still isn’t equitable with the overall population.

It’s worth nothing that INN was formed as a league of investigative newsrooms, committed to challenge power and reach beyond official sources to cover and amplify the voices of people outside of power. Many report on social and equity issues that disproportionately impact people of color in the U.S., such as access to education, housing, health care disparities and equal justice under the law. This coverage matters to communities of color, but differs from what is measured here. INN does not include these outlets in diversity counts unless their publications primarily serve under-represented communities, rather than a general audience.

Looking at gender, INN took a snapshot of nonprofit news leadership by gender in 2016 and again at the end of 2020. In nonprofit news, a majority of nonprofit news leaders — founders, executive directors, top editors — are women. That has held across the five-year span. It tells us that gender diversity in nonprofit news has diverged dramatically from traditional media, where leadership remains dominated by white men. Our aim is to see the same dramatic improvement in racial and ethnic diversity.

INN has not consistently tracked veteran status, age, disabilities or LGBTQA status across our membership. Beginning in 2020, we made it easier for members to track and benchmark compensation through a national study that segments members by geography, focus and size of operations.

Our Work

INN added diversity, equity and inclusion to its strategic goals in 2019 and the following to the policies it asks all members to adopt:

Equity and Inclusion: This news organization aims to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves in its staff and contributors, its editorial choices and priorities.

INN made three other commitments in 2019 to advancing DEI in our field:

  • INN Index DEI. When efforts to include nonprofit newsrooms at scale in broader journalism diversity audits were not successful, INN decided to devote the INN Index annual field survey to DEI measures. The Index DEI study, being released in September 2020, establishes a baseline for our sector and enables us to measure progress.
  • Pay parity. INN decided to fund a national compensation study, something many members had requested in order to test race and gender pay parity, but which few could afford on their own.
  • Governance and board diversity. INN committed to create new advisory and peer group leadership opportunities within the membership in 2020 in order to build “leadership ladders,” giving younger and newer members more ways to get involved in guiding the organization and gaining experience that will broaden a diverse pool of director candidates.

More broadly, we seek to incorporate the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in our programmatic and fundraising efforts:

  • Trainings and trainers. INN makes a diversity commitment in all of its capacity-building programs to recruit diverse applicant pools, from which 30 percent of participant seats can be filled by organizations with people of color in leadership and/or outlets that are primarily serving underrepresented communities. And we commit to equitable representation by people of color in program trainers, facilitators and all leadership positions in our programming. INN does not present panels that are not inclusive across gender and race, nor do we participate in industry events that do not reflect a diverse or inclusive community.
  • Coverage for underserved communities. In 2020, INN began collective fundraising with member groups specifically to strengthen reporting for underserved communities. Our first two ventures provide Walton Family Foundation funding for coverage of Covid-19 impacts on education in disadvantaged rural school districts, and Field Foundation funding enabling Spanish language reporting of Chicago issues, and distribution of Spanish publications’ coverage to English-speaking influencers. INN’s work to broaden digital distribution also brings stories from underserved communities to new audiences through platform channels that otherwise have limited access to many small publications, including those covering communities of color.

Of key importance to the future of public service journalism, INN works to expand membership diversity through programs including:

  • Membership recruitment. INN uses networking, surveys and partner contacts to identify organizations to invite into membership, and nascent or startup organizations that might become future members. These scans are organized once or twice a year, and we particularly look for media reaching underserved communities that can both strengthen and benefit from the nonprofit news network. Many members and partners help with this work, and we particularly thank Democracy Fund, the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, Joyce Foundation, Facebook, Sembra Media and Migratory Notes. INN also will continue work with ethnic media funds and programs that support public service mission work among for-profit ethnic media.
  • Career development. INN attends and represents its membership at NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA career events to deepen the participation of news nonprofits with these affinity groups, and to raise awareness of career opportunities in nonprofit news. INN is also launching an academic membership that can help centers of journalism strengthen professional career pipelines into news. We will actively seek partner schools and reporting projects that enroll a highly diverse student body.
  • Internships. INN is actively growing collaborations around internships to support more BIPOC students gain job experience and awareness of career opportunities in nonprofit news. In 2020, member newsrooms hosted 58 paid interns and fellows through partnerships between INN and Emma Bowen Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the Dow Jones News Fund, and the Missouri School of Journalism, and 70 percent of the interns and fellows are BIPOC.
  • Leadership support. Retaining current and future leaders of color is one of the challenges in our field. The Emerging Leaders Council identifies and supports a diverse group of future leaders of the nonprofit news sector. This program teaches leadership, management and business tools that yield immediate results, and it creates space for participants to develop and launch a project with help from a supportive network. In 2019 and 2020 combined, BIPOC made up 40 percent of the ELC cohort. INN also has an expanding program of management training available to all members on managing for diversity, with the aim of helping them create more inclusive workplaces.
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship. INN seeks out and encourages journalists of color who are interested in starting or expanding publications.

Looking Ahead

Inspired by the racial justice protests of 2020, INN has begun a series of internal discussions among staff and board members about how to further advance diversity, equity and inclusion in our work. We are committed to regularly re-examining our own practices and updating policies and practices and creating a formal diversity plan.

INN is committed to going further with this work, faster. That means we’ll be continually looking at our own operations, holding ourselves accountable for improving the equity and inclusion of INN itself and of the field we support.

Do you have an idea, request, constructive criticism, potential partnership to share? We welcome input. Please email Executive Director Sue Cross or any of the INN team.