From DEI media leaders, organizations, and community advocates
Join several organizations and leaders in calling on the Philadelphia Inquirer executive leadership to directly have a meeting with PABJ, AAJA Philly, NAHJ Philly, and Free Press to improve their coverage and management of diverse communities, click here.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has long been considered our city’s paper of record: A media outlet that many around the city, state, nation, and world have expected to accurately reflect and consider the voices of those among us. But for more than two years, the Philadelphia Inquirer has stood for something else: negligent, irresponsible, and harmful leadership that has avoided accountability and has continued to make failed promises to the local affinity DEI organizations they’ve once agreed to work with in good faith. This is damaging to the paper’s credibility. And it is damaging to all Philadelphians, especially communities of color, who expect our city’s paper of record to consider them to cover and represent them, and their advocacy groups, fairly and equitably.
It is disheartening that the Inquirer executive leadership, namely Publisher & CEO Lisa Hughes and Editor and Senior VP Gabe Escobar, would continue to avoid meeting with local DEI media organizations such as the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the the Philadelphia chapter of the Asian American Journalist Association, at a time when their newsroom continues to struggle with diversity coverage, hiring, and community outreach. While they have made some recent steps toward improvement, such progress has been inconsistent and not as promising given the lack of engagement with the aforementioned affinity group better tasked with advising and informing such efforts.
MEDIA ADVOCACY GROUPS AND OUR DEI ALLIES HAVE HAD ENOUGH AND WE DEMAND THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER TAKE ACTION.
Year after year, email after email, meeting request after meeting request, open letter after open letter, public call out after public call out, month after month, day after day, phone call after phone call, zoom call after zoom call, we have tried to educate you and your colleagues. We have sent emails, made calls, met with Inquirer staffers, met with Lenfest Institute board members, met with the past and current Inquirer VP of DEI, gave thumbs-down awards to raise awareness of the issue, and after more than two years of trying, we have not been able to have a follow-up meeting with Hughes and Escobar to formally discuss why our initial DEI pledges were not met. It is clear that our behind-the-scenes outreach has had zero impact. What has had an impact, however, is your consistent railroading of our local affinity group’s ability to enact real change at your publication.
The Philadelphia Inquirer decided to spend more forming DEI efforts that have lacked collective input from affinity groups and the community at large.
Two years ago, the publication agreed in a joint statement with the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) that they would launch a Community Advisory Council that would include input from diverse non-employees from The Philadelphia Inquirer. They have not gone through with this plan and have yet to formally inform our organization directly why they haven’t.
Two years ago, the Inquirer agreed to launch a new apprenticeship program for early-career Black and brown journalists with PABJ to help create a better pipeline of diverse representation at their publication. They have also failed to act on this effort as well and have not formally informed PABJ why they haven’t decided to move forward.
Two years ago, the Inquirer pledged to have continued dialogue on upcoming DEI programs and initiatives that both them and PABJ will work together to achieve. That still has clearly not been the case. In fact, since that now-neglected joint agreement – PABJ leadership has been consistently denied a meeting with the Inquirer’s senior leadership to discuss this matter. Several local DEI affinity organizations in Philadelphia have also raised similar concerns within their respective calls for accountability.
This is not the way any organization of the free press should treat DEI organizations seeking answers, transparency, inclusion – and more importantly, the truth. For years, promises were made by the Inquirer to affinity groups that weren’t kept. At this critical time in our nation’s history, we cannot continue to see diverse communities be neglected by those who seek to cover us fairly and equitably.
We could spend hours listing every problematic and racially initiative action that the Inquirer has done in recent memory, but we would rather organize the community at large to take action and demand better. Here are our demands for the Philadelphia Inquirer:
For those of us who truly respect the Philadelphia Inquirer’s impact for so many decades, it is appalling to see how they have continued to deflect, ignore, and avoid the constant concerns of local DEI affinity groups for so long. We won’t stand for the Inquirer’s leadership continuing to deny DEI affinity groups the opportunity to meet with them to request transparency and accountability. We demand civic discourse, representation, coverage, and equity – we demand that the Inquirer meet with these respective leaders to address these ongoing issues and honor the promises they’ve proposed on behalf of our diverse community.
It’s long overdue for the Inquirer to finally address this. We can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're interested in signing this open letter, click here.
Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists
Philadelphia Community Access Media
Ernest Owens, PABJ President
Vanessa Maria Graber, National Association of Hispanic Journalist Philadelphia President
Jingyao Yu, Asian American Journalism Association Philadelphia President
P. Kenneth Burns, New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists President
Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Philadelphia Councilmember At-Large
Isaiah Thomas, Philadelphia Councilmember At-Large
Donna Bullock, PA State Representative, Chair of PA Legislative Black Caucus
Darisha Parker, PA State Representative
Morgan Cephas, PA State Representative
Charlene Horne, PABJ VP of Broadcast
Jamyra Perry, PABJ VP of Print
Theresa Spencer, PABJ Secretary
Camari Ellis, PABJ Treasurer
Manny Smith, PABJ Executive Board Member
Sharron Cooks, PABJ Associate Membership Committee Chair
Desmond McKinson, Director of Communication, PA Senate
Craig Aaron, Co-CEO at Free Press
Tauhid Chappell, Program Manager at Free Press
Tim Haas, Director of Digital Product at Philadelphia Magazine
Catherine Hicks, Publisher at Philadelphia Sunday SUN
Erika Owens, Director of OpenNews
Chris Bartlett, Executive Director of the William Way LGBT Center
Britney Elayne Coleman, CEO of BE Creative Marketing Studio
Tayyib Smith, Principal Smith & Roller, partner at the Growth Collective
Brandon Szeker, CEO of BrandONCommunications
Joe Amditis, Assistant Director of Products and Events, Center for Cooperative Media
Cassandra Etienne, Center for Cooperative Media
Michael O’Bryan, Founder of Humanature
Dion Ringgold, CEO of Different by Choice Corporation
Michael Coard, Esq., Columnist at Philadelphia Tribune, WURD96.1FM Host
Abdul-Aliy A. Muhammad, Writer/Organizer
Becca Austin, Philadelphia Citizen
Jemille Duncan, Freelance Columnist
Mary Jude Szymanski, Freelance Video Editor
Keir Bradford-Grey, Attorney
Lauren J. Footman, Consultant
Jacquie Posey, PABJ Member
Wanda Davis, PABJ Member
Rhonda Gibson, PABJ Member
Eric Turner, Jr., PABJ Associate Member
Carol Muller, University of Pennsylvania