The Hechinger Report’s mission is to examine inequality and innovation in education, and we believe that to do so with integrity, we must include diverse perspectives in our stories and ensure that the writers and editors telling those stories also come from diverse backgrounds.
In our coverage, we seek to elevate the voices of people who are Black, Latino, Native American or low-income, and who come from rural communities and other places that aren’t regularly represented in the debates about how to improve U.S. education. We are also committed to having a diverse group of journalists weighing in on which stories to cover and how to approach them. We know the news industry as a whole has much more to do, and we do, too.
Overall, about 23 percent of U.S. journalists are people of color, according to the 2018 American Society of News Editors survey of the industry (the response rate for the survey was 17 percent). Seventy-nine percent of newsrooms reported having a woman among the top three editors, and a third report having one person of color in a top role.
We want you to know how we’re doing in this process. We surveyed our full-time editorial staff in 2020 to understand the backgrounds of our colleagues.
At The Hechinger Report, 12 out of 18 respondents are white, three identified as Hispanic or Latinx, two are Black, and one is Asian, according to a June 2020 survey. Fifteen are female; three are male. All of our top three editors are women; all of these editors are also white.
A survey of freelance writers who have written for Hechinger in 2019 revealed a similar breakdown among those who responded (the response rate was 40 percent).
Another way to measure how we’re doing is by comparing the demographics of our journalists to the people we cover: students. About half of K-12 students and 53 percent of undergraduate college students in the U.S. are white, according to 2017 numbers reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Thirty-nine percent of K-12 students are Black or Latino.
Our challenge is not unlike the challenges faced in education, where the teaching workforce is overwhelmingly white despite research showing that teacher diversity is linked to higher student attainment. That’s why we’ve explored solutions similar to some of the models we’ve written about.
We’ve recruited young people of color to participate in our internships and fellowships as one pathway to full-time employment with our organization. About half of our staff reporters began at The Hechinger Report as interns or fellows. We’ve also created a diversity, equity and inclusion committee that prepares for and advises in the hiring process when we do have staff openings, to ensure we’re seeking out and including diverse candidates in the pool, and that helps us identify journalists who may contribute to our coverage in other ways, including as freelancers.
We have a long way to go, but we’re prepared to continue this work and to be transparent with our readers as we do.