Since its founding in 2016, the board and staff of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism have expressed our deeply held belief that diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental to the future of local journalism. We need diverse newsrooms, diverse news businesses and diverse ownership to cover and serve diverse communities. And beyond being more representative of the diversity of the community, news organizations must provide equitable access to power for journalists and community members of color.
This week, we were again reminded that there is still much work to be done in this regard. As the nonprofit owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, we were saddened by a headline in Tuesday’s print edition of The Inquirer that inappropriately suggested an equivalency between the lives of Black Americans and the loss of property. The Inquirer has apologized, explained how the article made it to print, and committed to strengthen its vigilance and processes going forward. You can read a public statement from The Inquirer’s editors here. You can read an open letter expressing deep concern from many of the journalists of color who work in the Inquirer newsroom to Inquirer leadership here.
Black lives matter. The Lenfest Institute stands with the Black journalists and journalists of color who have pushed for change in newsrooms nationally and here in Philadelphia. Like them, we believe that journalism should combat injustice, hold authority to account and strengthen our communities by bringing us together and helping us better understand ourselves and one another. We have tried to reflect these values in the programs we have created, supported and funded in these four years, but we are humbled in recognition of the challenges that remain.
We are immensely grateful for the Inquirer photographers, videographers and reporters who have spent hours on the streets throughout the Philadelphia region in the past few days. They have, together with their colleagues from news outlets across the city, braved tear gas, violence, arrest, and the threat of exposure to COVID-19 to bear witness, amplify community voices, and freely report the news.
Together with The Inquirer, we will work to enact systemic changes that ensure coverage is reflective of the lived experiences of all Philadelphians. We will work to ensure equitable representation of Black people and people of color within the team and leadership of The Inquirer and other Philadelphia news enterprises, to raise concerns and push for change. And we will continue to support cultural competency training for every Inquirer team member to ensure that this burden isn’t solely placed on people of color.
In the coming weeks, we will share more with the community about our plans moving forward.
The events of the past week have, once again, reinforced the critical role of a free and independent press. We are committed to building a local journalism ecosystem that is equitable and representative of all.