SF-recut

Stephanie Foo

Intro from Jay Allison: The Lead: Stephanie Foo of This American Life has written an important manifesto on diversity in public media. In this system, we think of ourselves as open-minded and progressive. We exist to serve the public, after all. Yet, in a country comprised of so much human variety, our sound can be homogenous. Let’s face it: we may WANT to do better, but we’re just not fully representing the amazing country we serve. We have good intentions, but when we don’t deliver, excuses abound. And, often, we leave it at that.

Stephanie’s manifesto addresses all the excuses and offers simple ways to override them. It should be required reading for everyone involved in building our workforce or programming. It’s a roadmap, it’s an action plan, it’s a manifesto.

Download “Stephanie Foo” Manifesto (PDF)

What To Do If Your Workplace Is Too White

 

There’s a question I’ve heard a lot lately. Program directors and hosts approach me at radio events more and more often (it’s not hard to spot me — I’m often one of the only People of Color [POC] in the room) and ask, “How do I reach a more diverse audience? And how do I hire more people of color?”

I’m glad they’re asking the question. It’s about time that public media came to terms with the fact that it does not serve the public as a whole. More hosts and program directors realize that a market of POC exists — and if they don’t cater to it, they’ll fail to grow their audience. And I’m glad the people in charge are realizing that when it comes to attracting minorities, throwing some hip-hop beatz as a transition between stories is about as effective and transparent as Mitt Romney’s spray tan. Finally, finally, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the solution to our diversity problem is hiring producers of color, and that diversifying your business is smart from a content perspective.

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Fans of my work have always skewed young and diverse. The music podcast I created in my early twenties, Stagedive, attracted mostly 14-24 year old listeners — unheard-of demographics in public radio. People often ask me if I actively look for stories that will target this audience. Nope. Not at all. Being a young woman of color and following my interests naturally leads me to report on topics that people like me will be interested in. So often when I see a story on Buzzfeed that I read carefully, love and share, I notice it’s written by a person of color, or even more specifically, by an Asian woman. What a shame, then, that the numbers of working journalists of color are so disappointing. Just 4.78 percent of newsroom employees are black. 13.34 percent are minorities.

A diverse staff will lead you to a broader range of ideas. And new ideas bring new listeners. If you’re in storytelling or media, new, competitive, different ideas are the pillars your entire business rests on. Again: I’m glad that slowly, institutionally, public radio is realizing this value. What I’m not so glad about is the follow-up question that people ask me. “I can’t find any producers of color,” they say. “POC don’t want to be in public radio. So aren’t we trapped in a Catch-22?”

The shocking thing about this question is that it’s often asked by mind-blowingly talented journalists. Journalists who in their professional lives know that you cannot wait for your characters to come to you. You have to go out looking for them. You call one person, four people, ten. You scroll through the forum, read the book, take the subway ride, knock on that door to find the person who does and says exciting things and is just right for your story. Finding talent for your show is no different.

The question, “If you won’t apply to our jobs, how can we hire you?” echoes the classic derailing question of “If you won’t teach me about race, how can I learn?” It places the burden of furthering diversity and building understanding on POC instead of the people in power.

In this manifesto I’ll outline just some of the ways you can acknowledge your own accountability and take diversifying your staff into your own hands. They’re not all easy. But be bold. Step up to the plate.

Hiring People of Color

Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk.

I recently attended the Asian American Journalists’ Association (AAJA) conference in San Francisco. I was moved by the number of enthusiastic young journalists there who were passionately looking for a way into the industry. There was a media fair with booths where forward-thinking organizations were reaching out to these journos — The Huffington Post, CNN, Buzzfeed, Fox News…and public radio…in the form of KPCC (more on KPCC later).

These organizations know that the only way to build diverse talent is to actively recruit it. That doesn’t necessarily mean buying a booth. When I was there, I organized a panel welcoming aspiring journos to the audio world, and I made a point of asking where the student newsroom was. I visited, announced myself, handed out business cards. Many students had never considered radio/audio as a means of getting their work out. Their eyes widened when they realized our industry was growing, making more hires all the time. You could see the gears turning in their heads. They were getting excited.

I recognized that look. I wanted to be a journalist ever since I published my first zine when I was 15 years old. But it wasn’t until after college that I realized public radio was an option. Growing up as an immigrant in an immigrant community, with parents and peers who never listened to public radio, I had never heard of All Things Considered or Car Talk. I discovered This American Life by accident, in a friend’s car, and I remember being stunned. I thought, “How did I miss this? How the hell did I not know this entire MEDIUM existed?!” So how do we make those moments happen for more young people?

The answer is outreach. Attending journalism conventions is just a start — super-talented journalist and educator Lam Thuy Vo has a fantastic resource on Medium on building a diverse newsroom, complete with a list of just some groups you can start with. But you should also be constantly reading and keeping your eyes open for accomplished journalists in other fields.

There are many talented reporters of color who have won prestigious awards. Scroll through their names. Do you really think a brilliant Pulitzer-prize winning writer’s talents will be rendered useless under the crushing weight of having to learn Pro Tools? Folks, it’s time for a reckoning. Take a deep breath, gather your self-worth and hold it close to you. Here goes: Pro Tools is not that hard. Most millennials have taught themselves Photoshop. InDesign. Final Cut. It’s not about the mechanics. Again — it’s about ideas. Pay attention to journalists, documentarians, slam poets who are generating creative, attractive ideas, and initiate conversations with them.

Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Want A Team That Can, Teach.

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The Transom Story Workshop has created a scholarship fund with the intent of being able to allow people of color with fewer resources to attend and learn how to create compelling audio stories. Some colleges, like CUNY, are trying to beef up their audio storytelling curriculae. But on the whole, these programs don’t generate many producers of color. And it’s not enough to simply wait and hope that these programs will create perfectly-formed radio producers to snatch up. The skillset required to make many of our shows’ highly specified content really can only be gleaned by making that content.

My boss, Ira Glass, told me that it has not been easy for This American Life to find viable candidates from these sources. “There aren’t that many producers in the country who are qualified to work on our show to make documentaries and stories like we do. And within that pool the number of people who weren’t white, college-educated, typical public radio people was even smaller. I think we haven’t done a great job of this in the past, and I think public media hasn’t done a great job. And it reflects in the programming in a bad way.”

That said, as I’m writing this, we have two black producers, one Latino producer, a Japanese-American producer, a Latina fellow and I am Malaysian Chinese-American.

But we believe there is still room for us to improve and grow. That’s why This American Life will be creating a fellowship program next year specifically to cultivate people of color. We’ll be pulling in POC from outside of the public radio sphere and immersing them within our process. Our team of fellows will each be assigned a producer, who they will shadow through every step of the radio-making process. They’ll watch as we cut tape and conduct interviews, and they’ll sit in on story meetings and as many edits as possible. Then they’ll craft their own pitches, and we’ll help them create their own radio stories.

We hope that this endeavor will be tremendously valuable for them—and for us. Serial founder Julie Snyder has been with This American Life since its beginnings 20 years ago, and over that time, she’s seen its staff diversify. She told me, “I think the outlook, the interests and the tone of This American Life have expanded — grown deeper and smarter — because of our producers of color. A good example of that is a story Robyn [Semien] produced a few months ago for the “Birds and Bees” show. It was a story reported by W. Kamau Bell that started out as a question of how to talk to kids about racism but then dove deeper into complicated and specific areas about how African-American adults move through everyday life while at the same time being aware of the depth, ubiquity and horror of racism. The story truly went beyond pat prescriptions that are often part of stories that even gesture at racism, and instead grappled with conflicted feelings, open-ended questions and ambiguity. And the story was funny, too! …I just genuinely believe that story couldn’t have been produced with the same kind of nuance and truthfulness by a white producer.”

If you really want a talented pool of diverse people who can jump in and churn out precisely the kind of work you want — you need to help educate that talent.

Ivy Isn’t Everything.

Who do we select to cultivate? We have limited time and resources (because it goes without saying that all fellows and interns should be paid to ensure an economically diverse staff.) In order to make our time and money count, I understand that the instinct is to go for the most well-educated individuals. But our industry desperately needs to rethink what the perfect applicant looks like.

Snap Judgment makes some of the most progressive hiring decisions in the industry, and as a result I think they’ve discovered some truly remarkable talent. From the get-go, instead of posting on journalism job sites, Snap posts on Craigslist. It means they get thousands of applications, but it makes for an incredibly diverse applicant pool.

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Several of my coworkers at Snap Judgment had no interest in public radio before they stumbled upon Snap’s Craigslist ads. Their Executive Producer, Mark Ristich, takes pride in that. “That’s why we hired ’em!” he always likes to say. “You can’t just go for the Princeton grads. The things that wow people normally, they don’t wow us. We want to know what your life story is, what your background is.”

I’ve benefitted tremendously from Snap’s hiring practices. When I interviewed to intern with them, I had zero official experience in radio journalism — I didn’t even know how to use a DAW. If my resumé had landed on your desk, you probably would never have considered hiring me. But in my cover letter, I promised to be the first one into the office and the last one to leave. Snap Judgment hired me as an intern, then after a whopping three months’ experience, they hired me as a full-fledged producer. I was 22.

“Didn’t it feel risky, making that hire?” I asked Mark. “I didn’t have a body of work. I had nothing to show for myself.”

“No!” he laughs. “No, it didn’t feel risky at all. You wanted to go for it. We value drive and background over credentials. And…you have to take chances. Multiple chances, on multiple people.”

It was a smart gamble. I kept my cover letter’s promises. I produced 170 stories for them over the course of four years.

Snap Judgment boasts one of the youngest, most diverse staffs in public radio (and one of the most Babes-of-NPR worthy.) The results are directly correlative: under NPR, they have one of the youngest, most diverse audiences in the NPR lineup. Its listenership has grown exponentially — after 5 years in the business, they have 2 million listeners.

It’s not about hiring an Ivy-educated, button-down, Vampire-Weekend-loving, Carl-Kassel-worshipping producer. (No offense, Carl. Fist bump.) It’s about passion, discipline and creativity. That’s it. So take an educated gamble, especially on the interns you choose — these are your hires with the lowest stakes and the highest potential payoff.

Retaining People of Color

Congratulations! You now have people of color on your staff! But the journey isn’t over. You’ve only taken your first step.

In the course of conducting research for this manifesto, I spoke to a number of massively intelligent public radio producers of color. Some of these journalists wound up leaving the industry because they didn’t feel their work environments cultivated safe spaces for diverse populations to thrive.

Let me repeat that. Talented, viable reporters of color do sign on to work in public radio. And then they quit because of institutional racism.

Create A Safe Space — Even if it Means Swallowing Your Pride.

One of the most basic tenets of being a good journalist is to be curious and to be empathetic. If we give that courtesy to our interviewees, why not extend it to our colleagues? One of the most common and wrenchingly emotional complaints I heard from journalists of color is that colleagues and management made no attempt to be better allies, to learn about their needs and to help create safe spaces for them.

This manifested in manifold microaggressions like constantly confusing two black people on staff, to full-on horror stories like making offensive, sexualized generalizations about entire ethnicities. To hear a bunch of producers of color recount these incidents over drinks is hilarious — the kind of hilarious where you feel your laughter echoing in the hollow cavern in your chest where your hope used to be.

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But the place that felt the scariest to the most producers was the one that already terrifies us all — the editing room.

Lee Hill, a black man, longtime journalist and recently, the Managing Editor of Digital at WNYC, told me that the stakes are higher when you are a producer of color. He said, “When you’re white in a certain setting, one represents one. When you’re black, one represents all. It puts this constant state of double-consciousness into everything you do.”

Lee explained that he knows people of color in majority white newsrooms that have to navigate that double-consciousness with constant care. For example, what if their organization ran something offensive?

“If they get called on their coverage, they’re going to say, ‘We talked to our black person and they said it was okay!’ Who else carries that burden? Who else carries that kind of burden?”

This moment hits home for so many people of color. We feel an obligation to speak up and represent our people if we hear something that could be construed as offensive. So we say something, but instead of taking the comment for what it is — an edit — some might see the comment as a call-out.

Lam Thuy Vo said, “Nobody’s accusing anyone of being a misogynist, or racist. We’re just trying to raise issues and editors need to be able to take that in. I’ve been in situations where comments get shut down real fast, the room becomes silent, and one or two people get extremely angry, like, ‘Why are you saying this? Why are you causing trouble?’ It’s like, okay, fine, I back off. But now — I’m not going to say anything next time.”

“With millennials and POC, allegiances lie with people, not organizations,” she continued. “Names don’t mean as much to us as they did before.” This changing landscape means you can’t treat your employees poorly and get away with it just because your organization has a big, respected name. Call upon your legacy of fine journalism all you want — if you get a bad reputation within the community of POC journalists, you’ll have a hell of a time finding talent willing to work for you.

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Make sure your name is clear. Cultivate a good work environment by making people feel valued. Listen. Be forever willing to learn. And provide helpful resources so your staff can learn, too. Circulating articles like these (maybe collecting them in a Google doc) and suggesting that employees follow diverse populations on their Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram accounts are a great way to encourage people to educate themselves.

Hire Editors of Color.

That feeling of vulnerability that POC possess in editing rooms can be partially alleviated by having editors of color. They can help people feel protected and validated. But they also give your employees something to strive for — something to stay for.

Shereen Marisol-Meraji, a reporter for NPR’s Code Switch, produced a story recently about Latinos who have taken on cycling as a hobby. One woman in the story, Gabriela Bilich, said that she didn’t think that she’d be welcomed into the world of cycling.

“I never saw cycling as a Latino thing. All I ever saw were white dudes, tall skinny white dudes on the bikes, middle-age men in Lycra riding around the Rose Bowl and so I was like, “Okay, that’s another thing white people do,” she says in the piece.

As a woman with Puerto Rican and Iranian roots, Shereen said that when she heard that quote, she deeply identified with it. But a white colleague of hers didn’t understand the statement. “So what if she doesn’t see anyone doing it? Why should that prevent her from trying it out?” he asked.

Shereen said, “I told him, ‘You see yourself represented all the time. But what if you went to South L.A. and took a hip hop class, and everyone in it was Latino and African-American? How would you feel? Would you feel like you should be there?’ He said, ‘Uh… probably not, I’d feel pretty awkward.’ And I said, ‘Right. That’s the feeling. All the time.’”

That’s why editors of color are crucial. John Asante, who is Ghanaian and who worked on Talk of the Nation and Ask Me Another before leaving to be a Marketing Manager in the startup world, said, “If you don’t see POC in power, you don’t see mobility.” This was a thought I heard over and over again from POC in public media — that a lack of leaders of color in an organization sends a clear message: There is a glass ceiling in this system, and if you are not white, you cannot break through it. Or even worse, that lack may cause employees to internalize their doubts, and believe they could never be good enough to take on a leadership position. “It’s not until you see people of your kind in leadership roles that you know that’s something you want to do,” Shereen told me.

Lee Hill told me that when he was recently appointed as the Managing Editor of Digital at WNYC, his presence alone encouraged an influx of POC applicants. But for many, these steps forward are fewer and farther between than we’d like.

Telling Stories POC Want To Listen To

I don’t think I need to recount what the bulletpoints of a great story are — there are so many incredible Transom manifestoes that do just that. But what I do want to pinpoint is the fact that so often, stories about culture and race don’t follow those bulletpoints. They aren’t held to the same standards that other stories are. As you’re listening to a story about Dia de Los Muertos or Chinese New Year red envelopes, you can practically hear an editor sighing with relief and saying, “Ah, easy puff piece. Check! Diversity story in the can!”

Stories about race and culture should include the main tenets of: Are there fascinating characters? Is there conflict? And is it surprising? If you’re a good storyteller, you know to adhere to these questions as if they are law. So why throw those laws out the window when you’re doing a story that involves POC?

“Pretty saris!” or “Diwali!” are not stories. Waltzing into a wedding, festival or celebration, rhapsodizing about how colorful, exotic and fragrant everything is and getting some quotes about what the incense symbolizes — that is not a story. And this is not something you’d ever broadcast if white Americans were the main characters.

“The equivalent would be someone doing a story on Christmas, saying, ‘They typically have trees! They typically have this guy named Santa.’ Everybody celebrates in a very different way. When I was a kid, we celebrated Christmas with fish,” said John Asante. “To represent people by placing them in a box is doing them no justice.”

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Your job is not to do a story about culture. Your job is to do a story about people. If you’re walking into a cultural celebration with a microphone hoping to find something, you’re probably already too late. Do your research. Is a girl concerned that her crush will not show up at her quinceañera? Does someone want to make a traditional Diwali dinner, but can’t find the proper ingredients in her small town? Chinese children are supposed to receive red envelopes until they’re married. Is there an unmarried Chinese woman in her late twenties feeling embarrassed about still getting red envelopes long past the age her relatives ever did?

These are the questions that are actually relatable to people of color. Like, can someone actually produce that last story? Because I really want to hear it.

The consequence of telling an unsurprising story is not just that you may be boring people — you may actually be perpetuating dangerous cultural stereotypes.

The inimitable Chimamanda Adichie has a fantastic must-see TED talk on the danger of perpetuating the single story. (I know, I know, but really, this TED talk is the one you have to watch!) She talks about the pictures society paints of Latinos as abject immigrants, of Africans dying of AIDS.

She says, “Show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become. It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power…power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”

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As a member of the media, it’s within your power to change those reductive images through your storytelling, to build new, three-dimensional, nuanced images. Tell compelling stories that involve (but aren’t reduced to) scenes of a Chinese person eating gyros with tzatziki on the sidewalk, or playing black metal music, or crying at the movies, or decoupaging their end table. You know. All the stuff Chinese people do outside of being Chinese.

“I think sometimes stories are announced as, ‘Now, from a black perspective,’ instead of treating people as people,” says Daniel Alarcón, professor, novelist and Executive Producer of the Spanish language storytelling podcast Radio Ambulante. “That’s one of the huge mistakes that I see. If I hear a black voice on NPR, they’re talking about race. If it’s a Latino voice, they’re talking about immigration. Instead of the breadth of experience. People who aren’t white have the same concerns as everyone else. Job, healthcare, love, sex, death, all that shit. If your story is about healthcare, go ahead. You can still talk to someone who isn’t white.”

Not Next Quarter. Not Next Month. Now.

As a listener, I can absolutely hear your company culture within your podcast. I can hear youth and space to innovate. But I can also hear racism and misogyny. And there’s a lot of public radio I’ve stopped listening to for that reason. It’s okay, though. I don’t miss it. There’s a ton of great new stuff popping up all the time.

That’s the number one motivator for those in audio to step up and diversify their content. Technology. The internet is the great equalizer, and with podcast numbers swiftly growing, large institutional gatekeepers are becoming less and less necessary.

Daniel Alarcón said that because Radio Ambulante is in Spanish and caters mostly to Latino audiences, it generated little enthusiasm from larger networks. “For me it’s been a slow realization that being neglected by the established public radio entities is something of a blessing. Because we have had doors sometimes nicely, sometimes not-nicely slammed in our faces, we’ve been able to develop something where we’ve had a lot of creative control, and something we’re really proud of. Our first year, we had 7,000 listens. Our second, 76,000. Last year we had 1.2 million.”

With podcasts nipping at its heels, traditional public radio needs to change — and quickly. Other organizations are getting the picture. The L.A. Times is diversifying its audience. And one of our own, KPCC, is seeing how those choices were a clever business strategy. They grew their Latino audience by listening to and engaging with their community and hiring POC. Their listener support grew by 76%, and their underwriting revenue increased by 48% between 2009 and 2014.

This changing landscape inspires fear in some program directors. It’s all so strange, so different than what’s come before. I see that as pure opportunity. During my career, I want to do my best to build influential new institutions where people of color and women are prioritized and placed in public positions of power. Our new utopia will build and adopt new technologies to reach a wider, younger audience. We’ll tell underrepresented populations’ stories and capitalize on those overlooked markets. We’ll create supportive, fun work environments where all of your coworkers can tell you apart from the other Asian. We’ll win a gargantuan pile of shiny awards on our important, relevant reporting. And, of course, we’re going to make it rain. (PRPD translation: We gonna get rich.)

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It’s going to be awesome. And you’re totally invited.

One short, final thing. Say you try everything in this manifesto, and your staff still isn’t diverse enough and isn’t drawing in the audience you want. You could wring your hands and wonder if what you want is even possible.

Or you could take a piece of advice from us people of color. A little bit of knowledge every single one of us knows all too well:

Nothing is handed to you on a plate. Work harder.

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*Thanks to Bryan Derballa for the image at the top of this post of Stephanie Foo.

Comments

Leave a Comment

  • sensorrhea

    10.08.15

    Reply

    What’s “diverse enough?” Is there consensus on that?

    P.S. adding too many cute anim gifs really heats up my CPU. I may have to write a gif-blocking chrome extension just to revisit this article.

    • Eric

      10.08.15

      Reply

      Just an idea, copy and pasting the text of the article into a word doc would be easier….

    • Luis Antonio

      10.08.15

      Reply

      How about this question: What’s “too white?” Is there consensus on that?

      • TS

        10.09.15

        Fist bump to that one.

    • aragusea2014aragusea

      10.13.15

      Reply

      Having a staff that roughly maps the demographic proportions of your country of operation seems like a logical place to start.

  • Luisa Cardoza

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Excellent article, Stephanie. Thank you.

  • Hannah

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Fantastic read! I love hearing your pieces on This American Life and Reply All.

    Replacing “public radio” with “non-profit” or “start-up” reads much like my work experiences as well.

  • Frank C.

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Appreciate the perspective. I’d also suggest, particularly to NPR, considering these insights not just for “POC” but also “people of faith,” “social conservatives,” and “lower and middle class white people not from the Coasts.” Diversity of ideas, beliefs, and economic classes is also sorely lacking in public radio and mainstream media in general, right alongside ethnic diversity. The difference, of course, is that public radio will at least acknowledge the value of ethnic diversity, even if this is honored more in the breach than in practice; I’m a loyal, long-time public radio listener and I can assure you I rarely if ever hear anyone tell stories that take my religious and political viewpoints seriously. Ira Glass and I may both be white, but we have very little else in common.

    • SEO

      10.14.15

      Reply

      Yes, which is a more meaningful type of “diversity”? Different skin colors or different points of view?

      • Gbenga Ajilore

        10.21.15

        It doesn’t have to be either/or. Both works and both should be the goal.

  • Jenna

    10.08.15

    Reply

    This is a good article. Too many “funny” gifs, though.

  • Jeff Towne

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Wait!! – don’t don’t don’t don’t drop that mic!!! Aaaagh!! Well… OK, I’ll admit, that WAS pretty badass…

    • Kathy Tu

      10.08.15

      Reply

      Of course the first comment I want to respond to is Jeff Towne’s. SAME REACTION.

    • Stephanie Foo

      10.08.15

      Reply

      Trade secret – pillow on the floor 😉

      • Jon

        10.09.15

        Trade secret – it’s an Electro Voice. You could have thrown it at a chopper! \m/

  • Alicia

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Thank you for this, Stephanie! It is one of the best articles on retaining POC that I’ve read and can hopefully serve as a model for other industries as well!

  • Bryan

    10.08.15

    Reply

    I really don’t care about race and neither should you.

    • TS

      10.09.15

      Reply

      Thus spake a white guy.

      • KarenI

        10.24.15

        So what’s wrong with white guys? Not ‘diverse’ enough for you? (Good thing the word TALENT never shows up in this article!)

      • Stephanie Foo

        2.25.16

        Actually, the word talent shows up 11 times in this article.

        Just sayin.’

  • Audrey Quinn

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Gah, Stephanie, you are a queen. So, so, so needed.

  • Nate Tobey

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Thank you this honest, constructive, essential call out of the ways public radio effectively *chooses* to stay so white – and for the blueprint of how and why to finally change that choice, and make radio that truly reflects this whole country and this whole world.

    The excuses need to be named for what they are.

    Kudos to Transom for giving Stephanie this mic so she could drop it so beautifully.

    Slow Clap.

  • Lilly

    10.08.15

    Reply

    “Vampire Weekend-loving.” You genius. POC producers everywhere are slow clapping so hard right now.

    • Jon

      10.09.15

      Reply

      C’mon, guys. I like Vampire Weekend and I’m yellow. (Or am I a banana?)

  • Team Paulo

    10.08.15

    Reply

    Too many gifs.

  • David Weinberg

    10.09.15

    Reply

    Thank you for this, it is spot on! Though I will say that I was disappointed there were so few gifs.

  • Catherine Stifter

    10.09.15

    Reply

    In the midst of a #NextGenRadio training project and your article had several mentors all neglecting our students to study with you on this subject. Excellent article. I’m sharing, sharing, sharing. The fact you wrote this and generously directed your pubradio love to us white legacy public radio types makes me hopeful that we can continue this conversation and find a way forward. With authenticity, humility and urgency. I am especially looking for the person who will succeed me as Senior Editor for Innovation, making community engaged documentaries at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. This is a fascinating time to be working in pubmedia. Be bold. Let’s go. PS If that’s some crappy RE50 microphone, you go ahead and drop it…

  • public radio guy

    10.09.15

    Reply

    “A diverse staff will lead you to a broader range of ideas. And new ideas bring new listeners. If you’re in storytelling or media, new, competitive, different ideas are the pillars your entire business rests on.”

    How those ideas and new listeners become financially relevant is also important, whether through grants, new members, or some novel new funding stream. Serving new listeners without losing too many old listeners is public radio’s perennial chicken-and-egg problem.

    It can and must be done and you’ve laid out many good ideas for getting there.

    As a great journalist once said, and as uncomfortable as it makes many public media pros, “Follow the money!”

  • thomas

    10.09.15

    Reply

    it was short lived, but I loved Stephanie’s podcast Stagedive too!

  • Elle

    10.09.15

    Reply

    As Amerasian myself, excellent piece.

    Quick criticism: [The question, “If you won’t apply to our jobs, how can we hire you?” echoes the classic derailing question of “If you won’t teach me about race, how can I learn?”]

    If the second question is being asked as a derailing question in the midst of an argument, ok, fine, but in my experience, white friends and colleagues have often come to me, respectfully, to ask about certain issues that I can speak to and it would be stupid for me to angrily go, “GO LEARN IT YOURSELF.” I am so, so, so sick and tired of POC responding that way–especially online. I *still* learn about social equality issues by reading things online and listening to explanations given, and other people do, too (e.g. that reddit user’s fabulous post explaining the phrase “black lives matter” vs “all lives matter” using the family dinner example). If no one ever explained, we’d be screwed. I’m not attacking you personally, I’ve just made it a personal mission to speak out against this position of “I’m never telling you anything, go learn it yourself,” wherever I see it. It’s a stupid response and personally, I read it as POC trying to get out of making change happen. You got dealt this POC hand, I know you don’t want to deal with it but life isn’t fair, go fix it anyway.

    Other comments: Take it from me, young 20-somethings with Ivy degrees are also not taken seriously. I think it’s not so much a matter of where you got your degree but how many years of experience you have: that’s where hiring managers are getting stuck. They are lazy and they don’t want to “train up” the go-getters who are hard-working but don’t have as much experience (so I agree with your final two sentences). And of course, asking for a 40-something-year-old POC with that much experience is going to be hard to find like a needle in a haystack because if no one is giving them opportunities as young newcomers, executives and hiring managers are, as you said, going to push them away and then they can’t climb the ranks. They create their own catch-22 due to lack of innovation and strategic-risk taking, and they do it at the expense of POC and at their own expense of not diversifying and growing their revenue. The top down culture of so many orgs is maddeningly frustrating. It’s like they’re purposely adverse to change and innovation.

    Anyway, great piece, I love that you address retaining POC employees as well (that, IME, is the harder part because of built-in cultures of exclusion and exec staff using top down decision making to shut down conversations). Definitely will be sharing this piece with people I know.

  • Ian Reed (@iiaannrreeeedd)

    10.09.15

    Reply

    Emailed this to my office! We’re not in public media, but there’s definitely stuff to learn here!

  • Faithy

    10.10.15

    Reply

    Gifs were distracting. I don’t think it’s the right place for them because you had a lot of great, eye-opening points. If this is a true manifesto, it doesn’t need to be funny. Thanks for your article though! Insightful read.

  • David Woo

    10.11.15

    Reply

    I didn’t really discover Public Radio or rather I was unconscious of it until I was sick from Lyme disease and on disability at home listening to Public Radio over 15 years ago. If I’d been more aware of it 30 years ago, I would have applied myself and been more involved.

    As a Asian growing up in America, I’ve always thought that my opinions were always brushed off more often than my white peers. This piece squarely places the responsibility upon the leaders of Public Radio to find the right kind of talent to keep it relevant in this changing and growing culture.

  • Sheila Pham (@birdpham)

    10.12.15

    Reply

    Oh Stephanie. I already loved your work on TAL and other programs, and reading this manifesto just made me want to have a big old fashioned cry – sadness, happiness and everything in between. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this. Your perspective validates so much of my own experiences and observations working in public radio and I can’t help but take a lot of heart from everything you’ve written. I do hope Australian radio producers are reading this and taking note of what our colleagues are getting up to in the States.

    I started wading into public radio a few years ago and the view from the inside kind of broke my heart. I’m a longtime and passionate listener of public radio and it was only when I started working there that I realised my difference in a way I hadn’t ever before. A few years on, I think I’ve met just about every Asian-Australian who has worked in or is still producing this kind of radio in Sydney, a city of more than 4 million. (If you’re reading this and I haven’t met you yet, get in touch!)

    I’ve often wondered how different my world would’ve been if I’d heard more minority voices on the radio when I was a teenager – I might have chased the dream a bit harder instead of opting for other kinds of (interesting) work instead. Yet I keep coming back to radio even though I feel deeply ambivalent because I know too much about the institutional culture and I don’t know if I have the emotional energy required to represent on top of everything else that a good radio producer needs.

    But there’s hope! This week I’m working on a philosophy program where, for the first time, I get to produce a radio program that’s about my love of philosophy rather than my cultural background (as much as I love making work relating to my heritage). I totally appreciate great editors and producers who fully understand that we’re all in this together, and the more inclusive we are, the more vibrant and interesting and engaging our radio will be. The audiences will follow.

  • Dragon

    10.12.15

    Reply

    *Snore*

  • Julia Barton

    10.13.15

    Reply

    This is a manifesto that funders need to see. Because institutional capacity is not something that’s in fashion with funders of the public radio system. When we’re operating from one content grant to the next, there’s not as much room for recruitment, training and retention. It’s been a slow-rolling disaster for the system as a result. Kudos to TAL for stepping up and changing that within their own shop. And to you, of course, Stephanie for all that you’ve done in such a brief time.

  • Anna Harcourt

    10.16.15

    Reply

    Everyone complaining about the gifs is 1) derailing from the point of the article and 2) obviously not in their 20s.

    Young people love gifs! Make things that young people actually like, and all of a sudden that younger audience that has been escaping you up until now will appear.

    Stephanie, the article is amazing, the gifs are excellent.

  • Sam Kennedy (@Sam_H_K)

    10.18.15

    Reply

    There is one problem with your math. If we are talking about the states 63 percent of the population is white, and although I agree media companies could do better in hiring minorities. If you take out minorities that dont speak english ( a surprisingly large amount according to some statistics) then for English broadcasting / content you are looking at a smaller target audience then even the 37%.

    As someone else pointed out ” what is diverse enough?” are we talking 50/50 because that would not be realistic of our society and would require going far out of the way to specifically hire minorities that may or may not be there based on merit. If on average it could be near the 25 or so percent(of English speaking minorities in the U.S) i think that would be great (and i’m talking on averages of course, some media companies would obviously have more and some less).

    I agree with what your saying, but just as you say that when you are reading an article that you relate to and more than likely it is written by an Asian women. Is it okay for me to say that I relate more to articles written by white men. I honestly don’t even feel that way I relate to articles by people from all walks of life. I guess I’m just trying to make a point.

  • Zoe

    10.22.15

    Reply

    Such a great and needed piece. And your mic drop gif is mesmerizing! Whenever I hear your name on TAL these days I can’t help but think of Glynn Washington shouting, “Keep your guns at home, Stephanie Foo! Keep ’em at home!” (Snap # 315).

  • markinrussia

    10.25.15

    Reply

    Gotta love how libs love to discriminate in a PC manner and self hating whites will cry themselves to sleep because of “white privilege”. Not me. Seems clear to most that what Public Radio has is an over abundance of liberals, and to be specific liberal women, but then again I’m not a racist sexist like so many are in Public Radio and don’t listen thinking that we need to change that. Let the best rise to the top, regardless of their sex organs or color. Getting a little sick of AIR and now Transom dissing whites, particularly white men. Maybe what you need is more of a “diversity” of stories? Seeing how about 40% are LGBTQXYZ………. or transgender, maybe start basing your stories on societal make-up? All the different actual problems happening in the country and the world and this is the AIR/Transom rallying cry. Pathetic.

  • Helane’

    11.04.15

    Reply

    This is a fantastic story and very well written. I really wish that it reaches the right people and that after it is read that something is done about it, instead of just saying it’s a nice story. Like the story says don’t just talk the talk also walk the walk. No excuses!! Take pride in POC all people deserve a chance to speak up and be represented.

  • John

    11.05.15

    Reply

    Stephanie if it was between you and a black candidate for a promotion or hire should they choose the black candidate to be the most diverse? As we know, only having a whites and asians (model minorities?) in an industry (like IT) is a big and serious problem.

    • Stephanie Foo

      11.05.15

      Reply

      First of all, I think if a company has a number of Asian and white employees that doesn’t at all correspond with the population of the United States that of course they should think of diversifying their corporate structure from the ground up, whether that means promoting or hiring new black candidates.

      Second, I’d implore you to refrain from using the extremely problematic term “model minority.” It’s inaccurate and reductive:

      https://medium.com/@NCAPA/the-asian-advantage-is-a-myth-plain-and-simple-6864fd5ea225

      And it’s also quite offensive. Of course intersectionality is a real and legitimate factor but to say that a population is “model” implies that other minority groups are somehow not “model.” Let’s try to provide as much humanity and empathy as possible in the language we use to describe POC populations.

  • Exhausting BS

    11.06.15

    Reply

    Hilarious claims. Surely if being “diverse” helps your programming and audience count you’ve quantified exactly what the right ratio is, yes? Also, when we’re talking about diversity I assume we’re ignoring Asian, Jews, and people from India? It’s really just Black and Latinos? Because that seems to be the case. Apparently the other minority groups don’t actually count to your diversity goals. Finally, you do realize how few Black people there are with actual college degrees right? It’s very, very hard to find qualified candidates.

    Here’s another suggestion:

    Hire the smartest, most ambitious problem solvers you can find and ignore all other criteria.

    • Darryl Dixon

      11.07.15

      Reply

      Depending on the industry, a degree is not always important.

  • Thom

    12.04.15

    Reply

    Amazing.

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