How to attract (and keep) journalists who reflect your community

Newsrooms have looked hard at the diversity of their teams, leadership, and coverage in the last year, and many say they’re devoting consistent attention to hiring more journalists of color, investing in them, and supporting them in helping shift the stories that are told. Four leaders whose work focuses on recruiting and retaining newsroom talent shared how they’ve increased inclusion efforts during a panel discussion Feb. 25, 2022.

“In the same way you sort of talk about a buyer’s market or a seller’s market, you know, institutions do not hold all the cards anymore … when it comes to attracting talent,” says Krissah Thompson, Washington Post managing editor. “The market for talent is hot right now. Journalists have options, and journalists of color have lots of options, too.”

Rethink recruiting  

Widen the pipeline

  • Partner with organizations — even those outside of journalism — for fellowship placement in your newsroom.
  • Create part-time, academic-year internships that attract local, representative students who know your audience and may not attend top-name journalism schools. “We now have a spring internship program for locals, so a lot of our state schools … community colleges, those folks can feel they do have an avenue to get into the Times,” said Joseph Serna, L.A. Times deputy editor of culture and talent.
  • Find ways to build career connections and to build relationships with talent as early as high school.

Be straightforward on salary

  • List a minimum salary on job postings. “We’re working toward making that happen throughout our entire company,” said Mizell Stewart III, Gannett / USA TODAY Network vice president, news performance, talent and partnerships.
  • If salaries are fixed, as they may be for unionized staff, consider increasing funds available for things like moving expenses.
  • Equity in pay for the staff comes up frequently and passionately, Thompson said. Be prepared to discuss why salaries differ and explain those differences with potential hires and current employees.

Life beyond the newsroom

  • Employee satisfaction isn’t just about salary, says Leona Allen, Dallas Morning News deputy publisher and vice president — diversity, equity and inclusion. “It’s really trying to hit it at all different angles. They’re looking for training. They’re looking for, ‘Tell me more about my city,’ you know: ‘Where am I going to be living?’ ”
  • Promote what makes your city a unique living and working experience in job descriptions and in interviews.
  • Consider how to connect the employee with things they care about. “Especially when you live in such an expensive city, expensive community — people are in this profession because they love it. You want them to maintain a passion for the job and for the company,” Serna said.

Reevaluate retention 

Show employees a path forward

  • People are looking for experiences, says Allen. “Sometimes it’s a move up, sometimes it’s a move to the side.”
  • Don’t forget to plot a path for nontraditional but vital roles, like audience engagement or operations.
  • Outline stepping stones to leadership roles early. “We’ve expanded some of our leadership roles” — new actual steps in a career, said Serna — “a way to go up.”

Grow your next leaders

  • They are in the room. “Leadership is where we need to grow the most,” says Allen. “Start with the folks who are here to get them some of those intangible things that we know senior leaders look for when they’re looking to promote people.”
  • Be diligent in including staff in your efforts to change the culture. People want to know “they are being heard, being taken seriously,” Serna said. Include staff in policy, style, and accountability discussions.
  • Be accountable. “We now try to hold both, you know, not just our staff accountable through reviews but also management accountable through reviews,” Serna said. “We want our staff to feel heard, so we try to get more accountability on both levels.”


  • Create an opportunity year. “We created what we’re calling an opportunity year, which gives staffers the opportunity to apply to do something different for a year to bring their skillsets, their interests to another coverage area where they can learn and also infuse that team, you know, with some of their knowledge,” Thompson said.
  • “There’s always been a disparity in pay between small and large newsrooms,” said Stewart. “We try to focus on professional development as a retention tool.”

Bonus tip: Extend diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts beyond the newsroom. “You know, we spend millions of dollars a year on goods and services, we need to be thinking about diversity and equity” in the vendors newsrooms hire, said Allen.

Read next: Tips to improve inclusive coverage

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