1. Communicating diversity
Department heads who want to ensure that all social groups are represented in their editorial teams should communicate this clearly. If all employees know their superiors are serious about staffing their departments with colleagues from all kinds of different backgrounds with the aim of enhancing creativity and programme content and achieving discrimination free reporting, they will have the necessary support to implement these goals, even against old habits.
And all those who share these goals – often more people than one might assume - feel acknowledged and empowered.
2. Being a role model
Do you want a climate of respect and mutual appreciation in your department? Then live it! The culture in a media house is shaped not only, but decisively, by superiors and those in charge. They set the tone for what is accepted in the company.
A department head who makes discriminatory remarks sends a signal to his/her team that respect for certain groups is not something to be taken too seriously. Conversely, a management culture characterized by mutual respect and appreciation quickly rubs off on the entire editorial team.
3. Diversity officers are needed
While it has long been a matter of course in many U.S. and British media companies to have full-time "diversity officers,“ such positions are few and far between in German media companies. So far, among the public broadcasters, only the WDR and SWR have created full-time positions for "integration and cultural diversity".
Diversity officers should:
- take the lead in projects that promote diversity within the company,
- work with all departments and managers to develop effective diversity concepts,
- monitor compliance with set targets,
- offer expertise on diversity issues for the company as well as for the general public.
Important: To be able to work successfully, the positions must also have the necessary mandates, budgets, and power. In addition, there needs to be a contact person to whom staff can address cases of discrimination. Ideally, this person should be someone other than the diversity officer.
4. Capturing the status-quo
The path to more diversity begins with recognizing where it is missing. Once you’ve ascertained in which areas this is the case, you can begin to question your own reporting by asking questions such as:
- How many of our interviewees are people from immigrant families, People of Colour, or people with disabilities?
- How often do we hear the voices of immigrants or refugees when reporting on migration issues?
- How often are images of women portrayed sexist or queer people stereotyped in our media? How often do we portray Muslims or poor people in a neutral or negative context? What stereotypes do we spread about Jews or Russian-Germans, etc.?
In addition, you could ask yourself the following questions regarding your own editorial staff:
- How many of our department heads are men?
- How many of newly hired staff do not have an academic background?
- How many staff members are from immigrant families and belong to groups affected by racial discrimination? (For example, Blacks, People of Colour, Roma, Muslims, Jews, Russian-Germans...)
- How many of our authors belong to a group that experiences discrimination based on their sexual or gender identity?
- How many of our editorial staff are people with a handicap?
5. Define set targets
Once the deficits have been identified, the next step is to eliminate them. First and foremost, binding goals are needed.
- Does the editorial team consist mainly of white non-immigrant journalists? Are there no Black staff members or People of Colour working in the editorial department of a media company with several hundred employees? Then it’s definitely time to set a target. This can be based, for example, on the composition of the readership or the demographics of the circulation area.
- Media with predominantly males in top positions could commit to a 50 percent quota for women in management positions.
- If white males are predominantly featured in your reporting, the goal could be to achieve a 50 percent quota for women and one of 25-30 percent for non-white experts and interviewees.
6. Implement diversity measures
In order to achieve the goals set, the right measures are needed for the company. This could be a new recruiting strategy the introduction of quotas or training courses.
All plans must be communicated by decision-makers throughout the company so that all colleagues are aware of what these changes mean for them. For example, they can learn. None of us is free of prejudice, but it is still possible to create bias-sensitive reporting or an inclusive editorial climate.
Editors-in-chief can take care of measures to professionalize their staff, for example, training and further education in which journalists are sensitized to typical discriminatory pitfalls in reporting and intercultural skills are trained. Skeptical employees can be encouraged with incentive systems.
7. Set consequences
All plans for more diversity must be defined by decision-makers and communicated throughout the organization. However, even the best goals are of no use if they can simply be ignored. Therefore, the next step is to define what happens if goals are not achieved. One effective measure, for example, is to link promotions to whether diversity goals are achieved or at least pursued. This has long been standard practice in many U.S. and British companies. The central questions are:
- How do we measure whether targets have been achieved?
- How do we determine which measures are successful and which are not?
- What are the consequences if the targets are not met?
8. Designate who is responsible for the evaluation
One person should be responsible for checking whether diversity goals have been met. This is best done by a person other than the diversity officer, so that the measures can be evaluated as objectively as possible.
At regular intervals, concrete figures should be used to evaluate how effective your measures are. This allows consequences to be drawn, strategies to be readjusted, and the approach to be adapted to any changes in society. The evaluation can be done in several ways, which can complement each other:
- Editorial departments can (voluntarily) keep count of different groups represented in their contributions. This can lead to change through self-motivation and costs almost nothing.
- Using appropriate software tools can also help to evaluate the output of reporting.
- Ideally, the evaluation should be carried out by an external person, such as a media and communication scientist with the appropriate expertise, or an independent institute.
- One or more responsible persons should maintain an overview of all diversity goals, coordinate the measures, and provide regular updates on the current status.
- A detailed description of the tool DICUM for the professional evaluation of intercultural diversity in media companies can be found in the chapter on evaluation.
10. Ensure transparency. Make progress public.
Have you formulated your goals, decided upon measures to be taken and carried out an evaluation? All that’s missing now is the publication of all information collected and progress made. By making your results public, the interested audience/readership can exercise its control function, potential job applicants can learn a lot about your company's orientation, and the rest of the world can see that you’re serious about the targets you set for yourself. Many media companies in the U.K., U.S., Australia and other countries publish annual diversity reports and provide information on the current status of their efforts on their own websites.