New initiatives address newsroom culture

March 14, 2018 01:30

Two new initiatives are working to address shortcomings in newsroom cultures which are creating environments ripe for harassment and abuse.

Press Forward, an advocacy group founded by women who have faced harassment in newsrooms, officially launched this week after women in high-profile news media assault and harassment cases formed an informal support network.

The Power Shift Project, an initiative by the Newseum Institute, similarly works “promoting workplace integrity, defined as eliminating sexual harassment and creating opportunities for all.”

At Press Forward’s launch event, co-founder Lara Setrakian said, “I truly believe the future of our profession, of our industry, can be bright…but we can’t get there unless we have everyone’s talents on board, across gender and all backgrounds.”  

The group announced the creation of its advisory board, which includes RTDNF First Amendment Leadership Award recipient and women’s advocate Gretchen Carlson, Jake Tapper, Judy Woodruff, several other high-profile women and men in news media.

“I didn’t intend to set off a national movement when I jumped off the cliff all by myself. Back then there was no Me Too hashtag, no Time’s Up movement. Just one woman- me – trying to hold one man accountable. But since that excruciating choice – the biggest decision of my life – I’ve discovered that courage is contagious. When one woman speaks up, others feel empowered to follow. It’s like a chain of inspiration. And because so many brave women have not spoken out, we are at a national tipping point. We are witnessing a cultural revolution of real change. “ – Gretchen Carlson at the 2018 First Amendment Awards

As we wrote following the creating of the Power Shift Project, while now is an apt time to start the conversation about sexual harassment and assault, it’s not just important in a crisis. It matters before a crisis, and it matters all the time, because it’s part of a broader conversation.

Carolyn McGourty Supple, a Press Forward co-founder who left journalism early in her career, said at the group’s launch, “The most vulnerable in the profession have been hurt the most, and it’s the job of the press to be a voice for the voiceless and hold the powerful to account, even when it means introspection and acknowledgement of our own failings.”

The Power Shift Project, which began in January as a day-long summit including several members of Press Forward recently held the first in a series of planned video trainings. The “Power to the Interns” session was held to address the gaps in preparing future journalists, beyond reporting skills, for working in newsroom environments, where they are among the most vulnerable to harassment. The video addresses “what educators, employers and interns should know and do to ensure workplace integrity.”

As the Press Forward website reminds news leaders, “It is your responsibility to create trust with your employees by establishing safety – both in preventing workplace misconduct and also in allowing staff to feel comfortable to come forward to share concerns.” One of the group’s primary aims is to create a “blueprint” for newsroom leaders.

The newsroom values that create healthy cultures, including accountability, listening, and respect, are hardly new, but it’s clear we’re falling short, and putting these values consistently into practice takes skilled leadership.

We’ll be following these projects and bringing their lessons for news managers to you.