Which audiences “matter”?

Issue 61: What a recent decision at the Dallas Morning News says about who gets to read the news.

It’s Friday, February 10th.

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More and more, people at all ends of the newsroom industry spectrum, from reporters to investors, are asking what it means to be “audiences-first.” To consider audiences as a metric for investment, a touchstone for who to speak with, a means of repairing the consistent, systemic harm the industry as a whole has enacted on multiple communities.

The equation is unique for each newsroom, but who gets to ask those questions and who has their answers acknowledged and funded reflects the systemic inequality that marks both the media industry and society as a whole. 

On Monday, members of Al Día, the Spanish-language newspaper run by the Dallas Morning News, were told without warning that their team would be shuttered at the end of the month. Management justified the move, done without staff consultation, by citing stats on Texas’ declining primarily Spanish-speaking population. While the staffers remain employed, but reassigned, they won’t create any additional news content in Spanish. 

“Dismantling this team affects not only the employees but also the entire Hispanic community of North Texas,” the Dallas News Guild wrote in a statement. “Al Día reporters have been radically underpaid and overworked for years, a problem the Dallas News Guild is working to correct, and the team believes the treatment it faced this week added to the historic disparity between the company’s English and Spanish-speaking staff.”

The guild is asking those in support of Al Día to write to dallasnewsguild@gmail.com.

It’s not a zero-sum game — it’s possible to support new ventures to reach additional audiences with thoughtful, intentional, and helpful news while funding ones that have already proven successful. 

But the news industry often seems more interested in chasing after the new and shiny than investing in what’s already working, like in-language local news coverage. Newsrooms already establishing trust with communities for whom English isn’t the primary language can offer support and resources that may not be as accessible through authorities, a lifeline in a country where bureaucratic procedures create barriers to accessing aid on all levels.

If committing to “audiences-first” is a priority for newsroom leaders and funders, it’s crucial for them not to focus singularly on English-speakers — even if building trust takes time. 

— Janelle Salanga


A Bit More Media

Q&A: Karen Yin. For our most recent Q&A, Objective editor Janelle Salanga spoke with Karen Yin about the Conscious Style Guide (and the accompanying Conscious Language Newsletter), conscious language as an accuracy and equity conversation, and why she’s keeps resources free. 

Rethinking crime reporting. In a recent three-part series for Prism, Tamar Sarai and members of Media 2070 explain the ways bad crime coverage upholds racism and harms communities. They also provide suggestions for ways newsrooms can improve, from compensating Black journalists fairly to questioning police narratives. 

Objectivity and climate stories. As the climate crisis worsens, journalists have a responsibility to prioritize truth over “objectivity,” writes Andrew McCormick. “If whole newsrooms agree to cover climate to the utmost, we can redeem past failures and help audiences grasp, finally, the dangers and opportunities of this moment, before it’s too late.”

The Ida B. Wells Society is leaving UNC. After more than three years on campus, the Society will relocate to Morehouse College. In 2021, the university’s Board of Trustees didn’t offer tenure to Society cofounder Nikole Hannah-Jones, making the partnership dynamics “awkward,” according to Rhema Bland, former director of the Society.

Washington Post welcomes first accessibility engineer. Holden Foreman told Nieman Lab’s Sarah Scire that he’ll be ensuring that accessibility efforts are aligned across the newsroom and motivating other newsrooms to take on similar initiatives, even if they can’t hire an accessibility engineer. Read more in the full conversation.

How to improve coverage of eating disorders. In advance of National Eating Disorder Week, Mallary Tenore Tarpley has tips for journalists to “expand and elevate their coverage.” By including trigger warnings and forgoing sensational images, for example, newsrooms will produce more accurate stories and do less harm to their audiences. 

More unionizing efforts in audio announced. Workers at the company Crooked Media, which focuses on analyzing pop culture and politics, announced they were unionizing with Writers Guild of America, East. “Through collective bargaining, we can ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable coworkers come first.”


Stay Up To Date

5 days until … Higher Ed Strikes & Workers’ Rights — Improving News Coverage of Labor Issues. This online event is hosted by the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas-Austin.

5 days until … Mirror Awards submissions are due. The Mirror Awards, provided through Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, honor reporting, analysis, and criticism of the media industry.

10 days until … How to Navigate Media and Journalism When You’re Neurodivergent. Workshop panelists will discuss “solutions, tactics, and habits that have helped them navigate both the day-to-day work and longer-term job and career aspirations.”  

15 days until … the National Association of Black Journalists’ Second Annual HBCYou Training Day. ($$$) Scholarships are available for this day-long outreach program, which is open to students at all colleges and universities — not just HBCUs.

What else should we feature? You tell us. Send an email to contact@objectivejournalism.org.


A Few More Resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | JournalismJobs.com | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | Source Jobs | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian Pacific America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook |  SPJ Race & Gender Hotline | AMEJA Media Resource Guide | The Press in Prison | The Conscious Style Guide

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We’ll have more for you soon. 

This issue is by Janelle Salanga and  Holly Rosewood with editing by Curtis Yee.

Our stories are funded by readers like you. 

The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.

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