Dear Ms. Hughes, Mr. Escobar and the Philadelphia Inquirer leadership:
We’re writing to you as the newly formed J.A.W.N (Journalism Accountability Watchdog Network) Coalition to further underscore our disappointment and displeasure at the ongoing failure of the Inquirer’s DEI initiatives. These failures have led to the loss of multiple journalists of color within the newsroom over the last year, and as a result there are now zero Black male reporters at the paper outside of the sports desk. This means we are missing out on important perspectives to cover critical topics like public safety, housing, education, the LGBTQIA+ community, food insecurity, poverty and Black culture within Philadelphia.
We stand united in our individual and collective attempts to work with the Inquirer to address these failures and demand a meeting with you to determine our next steps in remedying this and to discuss other grievances our organizations and our communities have previously raised with you.
We recognize that journalists of color have had a variety of experiences at the Inquirer. While we celebrate the few journalists of color who have had “successful” experiences with the newsroom, they should not be weaponized a) to cast a rosy spin on longstanding failures in supporting and retaining journalists of color at the Inquirer and b) to pit reporters of color against one another. This statement is intended to address the broader trends of inequity experienced and practiced in your newsroom.
As PABJ President Ernest Owens stated, the association formed a partnership with the Inquirer last year to address the newsroom’s failure to fully embrace DEI principles and practices. The paper has not followed through on any of the agreed-on changes.
Free Press has also demanded transformative changes within the Inquirer. The paper has neglected to communicate to Free Press or the public how it plans to become a true anti-racist institution — a shift allegedly mandated by its “Inquirer For All” initiative.
NAHJ Philly and AAJA Philly joined PABJ in raising the glaring diversity issues within the Inquirer following the publication of Temple University’s landmark diversity report that noted several failures the newsroom has made in its DEI efforts around coverage, voice, content and representation within the newsroom. All three affinity groups also sent a joint letter to the Inquirer leadership two years ago that was met with silence.
Some of the most disheartening revelations from Temple’s 118-page diversity report found that Inquirer stories cover Black people only 26.4% of the time (compared to 58.8% of the time for white people). Of those stories about Black people, 53% are about sports. The report at the time also revealed that only 13.6% of Inquirer staff is Black (compared to 77.3% white), with co-chairs of the audit stating that “the Inquirer tends to cover white people the most” and “white reporters tend to write about white people even more.”
Now the Inquirer has zero (0%) Black male news reporters of a staff that is predominantly white covering a majority-BIPOC city. There are no Black male reporters outside of sports — none in features, none in breaking news, none in investigations, none in business, none in health, and none on the new communities desk.
The time for airing our grievances and waiting for the Inquirer to make glacial-moving DEI changes has now neared its end.
We demand that the powers that be at the Inquirer immediately initiate good-faith, consistent and transparent communications with J.A.W.N. We demand dedicated meetings with Lisa Hughes, Gabe Escobar, the paper’s leadership and the board of directors. If the paper fails to fulfill this demand, J.A.W.N. will initiate a public campaign against the Inquirer. As part of this campaign, we will let the public know that the paper of record has continued to fail to live up to its anti-racist PR mantra, and that its coverage continues to harm, divide and build distrust among the communities of color it so clearly needs if it plans to survive in Philadelphia.
We are beyond just talking. We demand action, answers and accountability.
President, Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists
President, Asian American Journalists Association, Philadelphia chapter
Vanessa Maria Graber
President, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Philadelphia chapter
News Voices Project Manager, Free Press
I hope you're having a happy and healthy summer, one that is filled with love, impact, and joy. This year has been unpredictable, and yet inspirational, at the same time. As President, I've been impressed with how our members have persevered thus far -- producing incredible journalism and media/communications services, while not forgetting to prioritize Black voices and issues.
As the saying goes, "self-preservation is key." In order to succeed in our efforts, we must prioritize our health and wellness: Whether that is indulging in self-care or doing everything you can to stop the spread of this still devastating virus.
PABJ is taking the necessary and responsible steps in prioritizing public health and safety during the pandemic. Today, our Executive Board discussed what that looks like for our organization given the rise in COVID-19 cases spiked by the delta variant, and news of other emerging variants.
The decision was clear: In order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus within our organization, we must emphasize the importance of vaccinations and ensure that our spaces/events represent that as well.
Effective Immediately: All PABJ in-person meetings, events, and gatherings will require that all members and associates (including guests, partners, and service providers) attending must be fully-vaccinated, no exceptions. The mandate only exempts children under age 12, given that they are still not yet eligible to receive any of the vaccines -- but we strongly encourage they not attend such gatherings unless dire. PABJ will require proof of vaccination before entry. PABJ will also be requiring that all members have a mask with them, as we will be following and observing all city recommendations on mask wearing as well.
We are following similar protocols being set by other organizations, businesses, and cites to reduce the spread. No, such a mandate does not violate HIPAA. We are are enforcing this mandate to ensure a healthier return to in-person events in the fall without any unnecessary setbacks.
But essentially, this isn't about solely enforcing mandates -- but caring for the wellbeing of our members.
Here's some additional information and details to note:
PABJ Executive Board appreciates all of our members, partners, associates, and service providers for your cooperation and support on this matter.
Keep the faith,
PHILADELPHIA ASSOCIATION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS STRONGLY ENDORSES MANUEL MCDONNELL SMITH FOR NABJ PRESIDENT
Change isn’t an option, but a mandate -- something that requires swift action, not passive consideration.
When evaluating the two candidates currently running for president of the National Association of Black Journalists, the decision could not have been any more clear to the PABJ Executive Board.
Our chapter strongly endorses Manuel McDonnell Smith for NABJ president because his steadfast leadership, vision and ability to enact real change within the national organization is desperately needed now more than ever.
It’s clear that both candidates are passionate about NABJ and our members. Both have been faithful servants to the organization, volunteering countless hours to ensure that NABJ is as strong as it can be.
But passion alone isn’t enough to keep an organization relevant, innovative and transparent. Smith has demonstrated these latter qualities in his service to NABJ and PABJ, more than his opponent. And for that, NABJ members should take note of this when they cast their virtual ballot starting next week.
As the immediate past president of PABJ, Smith transformed the chapter into a highly engaged nonprofit that has generated more than six figures in grant fundraising -- a rare feat for a local NABJ chapter.
With more than 300 paid and active members, PABJ is the largest local chapter in NABJ. Under his leadership, Smith revamped chapter task forces and committees, helping to provide direct funding support for their specialized activities and projects.
Smith’s advocacy for Black journalists dealing with diversity issues at major media companies such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, made national headlines and prompted immediate institutional reaction at Philadelphia's paper of record. He’s led an intersectional and multi-generational board that includes millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers that represent various career tracks, gender identities, LGBTQIA identities and other diverse backgrounds. His leadership helped make PABJ a finalist for the 2020 NABJ Chapter of the Year, along with other record-breaking honors and accolades.
As a long-time volunteer and producer for NABJ events and convention programming, Smith has seen the national organization at its highest levels and during its most challenging times. PABJ believes that he has the relevant insight, strategic vision and inclusionary drive to modernize NABJ as the organization approaches its 50th year in service. His fiscal leadership is impeccable and his ability to speak truth to power for Black journalists is noteworthy. NABJ would be in great hands under his presidency.
While we appreciate NABJ President Dorothy Tucker’s years of service to the national organization, our rationale for not endorsing her boils down to our concerns with her current leadership. Right now, NABJ is stagnant in its advocacy efforts, fundraising model, leadership development and overall support for local chapters and members.
As Smith found new fundraising streams and kept morale high within his local chapter during the pandemic, Dorothy’s leadership has been less stellar in terms of membership engagement and overall advocacy. Yes, NABJ has released statements speaking out against mainstream media diversity issues -- but such tactics have been more talk and less walk from an organization that represents thousands of Black journalists.
Recent concerns around the organization’s nearly $1 million fiscal surplus has left more questions than answers, as NABJ Task forces and committees continue to not be funded and convention registration fees have continued to stay the same as the year before.
There have been ongoing problems and structural inequity for local chapters without 501(c)3 status trying to fundraise for themselves -- and no strong support from NABJ for those caught up in the confusion.
We strongly condemn the inequitable split that was supported by the NABJ Board of Directors during President Tucker’s presidency in November 2019 that only mandates a 70 percent/30 percent split for registration fees -- and only an “up to 50% split of the profits” from their total partnerships with local chapters via regionals and other events. Host chapters and its members do the lion’s share of the work -- as volunteers -- in making regional conferences successful for both members and NABJ, so the split needs to better reflect that work.
Looking at the bigger picture, PABJ is greatly concerned that NABJ is becoming more of a price-gouging enterprise that pontificates on Black journalism advocacy, rather than acting as a full-functioning non-profit that seeks to support intersectional leadership at all levels with a pipeline for sustainable growth and transparency. We believe that a Smith NABJ presidency will bring about the immediate change our national organization so desperately needs -- because we have already seen how his leadership has revolutionized PABJ, the association’s founding chapter.
Starting on Monday, July 12 through Friday, Aug. 20, we are asking for NABJ members who are eligible to cast their vote in this election to support Manuel McDonnell Smith for NABJ president because we truly believe it’s the last chance to significantly reverse the stagnant state of a national organization that PABJ is the founding chapter of.
We appreciate anyone who steps up to serve on the NABJ board. But it’s time for a real change -- not another two years of business as usual.
In solidarity with NABJ members and chapters across the nation,
Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists Executive Board
PHILADELPHIA (April 5, 2021) – The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and Montclair State University's Center for Cooperative Media have formed a new partnership that works to expand advocacy and resources for Black journalists in New Jersey. The Center for Cooperative Media is funding complimentary, one-year PABJ memberships for professional and student journalists who reside in the state of New Jersey.
The Center for Cooperative Media works to grow and strengthen local journalism and support an informed society in New Jersey and beyond, primarily through its NJ News Commons network and national collaborative journalism program. The Center provides a wide range of professional development, coaching and networking opportunities for journalists in New Jersey as well as fellowships, grants and project support. To access the Center’s free services, sign up for its newsletter at bit.ly/joinCCMnetwork or email the Center’s director, Stefanie Murray, at email@example.com for more information or support.
"This generous contribution from the Center for Cooperative Media will not only help expand our organization's impact beyond Philadelphia, but across the entire region," says Ernest Owens, PABJ President. "Our organization looks forward to welcoming more members from down the shore to the association that started it all."
"The Center is providing these complimentary PABJ memberships in an effort to improve equity and diversity in the New Jersey news ecosystem," says Stefanie Murray, Director of the Center for Cooperative Media. "The Center’s ultimate goal is to ensure there are more Black reporters, editors and executives in jobs throughout the news industry."
This aid is open to journalists that would like to become first-time PABJ members, have been members in the past or would like to extend their membership for another year.
If you are a PABJ member who currently lives in New Jersey and/or know other Black journalists living there who would want to take advantage of this opportunity, please contact Ernest Owens, PABJ President, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New members from New Jersey can apply online at https://www.thepabj.org/membership-application.html.
Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and The Philadelphia Inquirer Announce New Partnership Initiatives
The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) and The Philadelphia Inquirer are excited to announce a new partnership to help drive diversity, equity, and inclusion within The Philadelphia Inquirer and beyond.
PABJ President Ernest Owens met with Philadelphia Inquirer CEO and Publisher Lisa Hughes, Editor and Senior Vice President Gabriel Escobar, and Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Jameel Rush to discuss shared goals and initiatives that will help The Inquirer create more opportunities for Black and other journalists of color and drive stronger connection to the Philadelphia community. Commitments made include creating a new apprenticeship program for early-career Black and brown journalists at The Inquirer, a partnership around a new Community Advisory Council for The Inquirer, and continued dialogue on upcoming DEI programs and initiatives that the organizations will work together to achieve. The partnership is one of several initiatives The Inquirer, PABJ, and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism have taken recently to expedite progress toward DEI goals in the Philadelphia media ecosystem.
“PABJ has been an advocate for equity and representation in newsrooms since its founding in 1973 by the legendary Acel Moore,” said Lisa Hughes, Inquirer publisher and CEO. “We are delighted to work with PABJ on initiatives that will have a significant impact on our staff and on the journalism we produce.”
“The Philadelphia Inquirer has been our city’s paper of record for decades and this groundbreaking partnership with them is in honor of the legacy of our PABJ founders and previous leaders who’ve wanted this to happen,” said Ernest Owens, PABJ President. “We look forward to enacting immediate change and strengthening DEI efforts across the Greater Philadelphia area.”
While this partnership will be the first of many between the organizations, meetings will begin this month to finalize the design and implementation schedule of the programs mentioned above.
About The Philadelphia Inquirer
Since 1829, The Philadelphia Inquirer has been “asking on behalf of the people” by providing essential journalism for the diverse communities of the Philadelphia region. The Inquirer, a for-profit public benefit corporation owned by the non-profit Lenfest Institute, produces Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism that changes lives and leads to lasting reforms. Its multiple brand platforms — including newspapers, Inquirer.com, e-Editions, apps, newsletters, and live events — reach a growing audience of more than 10 million people a month. “In a free state, there should always be an inquirer asking on behalf of the people.” — John Norvell, Inquirer co-founder
About the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists
Founded in 1973, PABJ is the nation’s oldest professional association of Black journalists. With over 200 active members, we are also one of the largest & the founding chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. This rich history & size allows us to serve as advocates for newsroom diversity and fair coverage of communities of color. We serve this mission through our awards programs, training institutes and signature community programs like our renowned Media Access Workshop. In 2019, PABJ launched a first-of-its-kind residency at Pipeline Philly, a co-working space next to City Hall. It is the cornerstone of PABJ’s new focus on supporting Black content creators & media entrepreneurs. Beyond newsroom diversity, our communities benefit best when we own the stories that get told and shared about us.
PABJ Launches New Website with Online Donor/Membership Database Thanks to a Generous Grant Sponsorship from Flipcause
PHILADELPHIA (March 9, 2021) – The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists is proud to announce a brand new website and online donor/membership database thanks to a generous grant from Flipcause, Inc, a renowned tech company that specializes in creating digital platforms for small nonprofits.
In February, PABJ won a Black Lives Matter Service Credit Grant from Flipcause that empowered the organization to revamp its digital platforms. Effective immediately, thepabj.org is the one-stop shop for all things PABJ online -- general updates, memberships, events, opportunities to donate, and more can all be found on the stylishly designed website. The new website also allows PABJ the option to launch an online shopping portal, a volunteer sign-up section, and other convenient features that can be implemented for future endeavors.
As a part of the sponsorship, Flipcause redesigned PABJ’s entire website and will maintain its back-end maintenance and troubleshooting for the organization, free of charge, for the next eight and a half years. After that, the organization will be granted an already-negotiated reduced annual rate to sustain the website in the future.
Another major competent to thepabj.org is that PABJ will now have the ability to maintain a strong membership and donor database that will increase its general outreach efforts. The public can now easily donate to supporting the 501(c)3 efforts of the organization more comprehensively than ever before. Effective immediately, non-journalists/media professionals can now sign up to become a “Friend of PABJ,” which allows them to make an annual contribution to the organization that will help advance newsroom diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Greater Philadelphia area.
"PABJ is extremely grateful for the generous grant and partnership from Flipcause at a time when the organization is rapidly evolving,” says Ernest Owens, PABJ President. “This innovative expansion will do more than just revamp PABJ’s online presence, but will give us the needed tools to increase our fiscal and membership outreach -- components that will ensure our efforts to become the most effective Black journalism advocacy group in the nation.”
To see the new and improved PABJ website, check out thepabj.org right now.
PABJ Statement on Unprecedented Partnership with CBS3 Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA (March 4, 2021) – The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and CBS3 Philadelphia have forged a new and unprecedented partnership following the recent allegations of racial discrimination from national corporate executives at the company.
Throughout February, PABJ President Ernest Owens and PABJ Vice President of Broadcast Charlene Horne met with CBS3 President and General Manager Brandin Stewart and Vice President and News Director John Wilson on initiatives that will advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the CBS3 Eyewitness News station.
The breakthrough partnership includes expanded recruitment opportunities, future job fairs, and a paid apprentice program starting this summer. This partnership will mark the beginning of many new efforts between PABJ and CBS3.
“PABJ is pleased to work with CBS3 on this unprecedented partnership that will make newsroom diversity, equity and inclusion more than just an idea, but an immediate action,” says Ernest Owens, PABJ President. “The commitments made by CBS3 in this partnership are rooted in sustainable and intentional practices that will make a positive impact in the Greater Philadelphia community for many years to come.”
CBS Philadelphia will also be expanding their continued work with other community organizations in the Greater Philadelphia area. CBS3 expects to announce its plans for rolling out new community service initiatives in the near future.
PHILADELPHIA (February 12, 2021) – The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) joins the community in expressing public disappointment and dismay of the latest findings of a Diversity & Inclusion Audit at The Philadelphia Inquirer. The report, written by Temple University’s Klein College of Media & Communication under the leadership of the late former NABJ President Bryan Monroe and Andrea Wenzel, reveals biased employment and editorial practices as it pertains to race.
Some of the most disheartening revelations from the 118-page report found that only 26.4% of Black people are covered in all Inquirer stories (compared to 58.8% of white people), with 53% of those stories being about sports. The audit also revealed that only 13.6% of Inquirer staff is Black (compared to 77.3% white), with co-chairs of the audit stating that “the Inquirer tends to cover white people the most” and “white reporters tend to write about white people even more.”
“The results of this audit isn’t a surprise, but a confirmation of the ongoing institutional racism at the largest print publication in Philadelphia,” said PABJ President Ernest Owens. “The Philadelphia Inquirer must engage with Black and brown media affinity groups immediately. It also needs to implement a diversity action plan that’s more transparent and equitable than their current failed efforts.”
PABJ stands in solidarity with Black staffers who have had to deal with the hardship of facing racial hardship and dealing with such unnecessary controversies in their own newsrooms.
PABJ was not involved with the audit in any way, and is calling on more than just a formal apology from the publication. “We want to see immediate changes to the Inquirer’s editorial practices, workplace culture and leadership structure,” said Owens. “PABJ leadership recently spoke with Jameel Rush, the Inquirer’s new Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, on the publication being more engaged with our organization and other local diverse media affinity groups.”
PABJ strongly requests to have a conversation and discussion with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s executive leadership on this matter. We propose working together on a collaborative plan that addresses the systemic racism that is reflected in their newsroom, community outreach efforts, and the Inquirer’s coverage.