Pittsburgh City Paper pledges positive change following immersive DEIB project | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh City Paper pledges positive change following immersive DEIB project

click to enlarge Pittsburgh City Paper pledges positive change following immersive DEIB project (2)
Photo Courtesy American Press Institute
Alt-weekly newspapers like Pittsburgh City Paper were founded to create safe spaces for marginalized voices and to challenge harmful narratives often propped up by legacy media.

We’ve done our best to model this over the years, but we know there’s much more work to do. That’s why last summer we joined a cohort of Pittsburgh news outlets in a monthslong Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging program led by the American Press Institute.

Since starting out in August, we’ve learned more about our internal culture and our place in the broader Pittsburgh media ecosystem through surveys, public listening sessions, team meetings, and info sessions from the API’s team of professionals.

We learned that Pittsburgh media as a whole is uniquely lacking in journalists of color, while its coverage of Black communities is almost entirely limited to sports and crime. Closer to home, we came to see how our institutional structures fail to create the stability and incentives needed to retain diverse workers. We also had to acknowledge how our coverage of minorities has sometimes been superficial or limited by relying on a handful of prominent representatives to speak for their entire communities.

Learning about the extent of our collective failures is humbling, but pledging to work alongside other outlets to create a better Pittsburgh media environment is inspiring.

With the help of API staff, City Paper has developed three goals for improving our coverage of the communities we serve and the internal culture we rely on to deliver that. We’re sharing them now so that you – our readers – can hold us accountable as we work to embody them.

While we know this won’t be accomplished overnight, we’re committing to these initial steps to ensure we begin the process of meaningful change.

  • Source-tracking: City Paper will commit to tracking the sources who inform our stories to understand how different communities are being represented. The goal is to encourage a diversity of sources encompassing all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and geographical locations throughout the Pittsburgh region.

  • Community Listening: The best way to learn about how our coverage is impacting communities is to invite their feedback through in-person and virtual listening sessions. This was a component in the DEIB programming we’ve just completed, and we found it to be thought-provoking and rewarding. Moving forward, we intend to find new ways to incorporate community listening into our regular operations so we can continually learn from you how we can better live up to our mission.

  • Strengthening workplace culture: One of the main weaknesses API identified for City Paper is the extent to which our operational limitations strain the editorial staff, leading to burnout and poor retention of employees of color. We are currently evaluating our resources and prioritizing investments that will change this. As a first step, we’ve partnered with Vibrant Pittsburgh, which is an organization that provides “the tools, knowledge, and connections to embed DEI into every facet of organizational culture.” In the coming months, we plan to participate in their Vibrant Index Initiative to help us further identify key areas in which we can improve our DEIB efforts, as well as utilize their vast education program.

In tandem with these practical steps, we’ve also developed a new mission statement that clearly spells out our goals and values.

  • We are anti-racist and anti-sexist

  • We celebrate difference and engage in curiosity

  • We embrace expression in many art forms – in what we cover and how we cover it

  • We are community-driven and write for our community, not about them

By making this public, we hope you will help us live up to these pledges as we do our part to create a better media landscape for Pittsburgh.