Letter from the editor | The Pitt News releases newsroom diversity, equity and inclusion plans


Screenshot of The Pitt News API Inclusion Index project.

By Rebecca Johnson and Betul Tuncer

A few years ago, The Pitt News published a story on the stunningly low number of Black students at Pitt. According to University data, Black students represented just 5.26% of the undergraduate student body in 2019, a statistic Black student leaders called “embarrassing.” 

The same leaders argued that the culture within the University needed to change to attract, and retain, more Black students. Internally, at The Pitt News, we also acknowledged that we needed to adapt to improve as a student news organization and to better reflect the needs of the diverse Pitt community, and Pittsburgh generally. 

In 2020, The Pitt News formed an inclusion committee to create, maintain and improve equity plans at the paper. However, this work is far from complete. In order for The Pitt News to succeed, we must foster an inclusive and diverse newsroom that represents the many facets of the campus and city we serve. 

Over the summer, the American Press Institute and Pittsburgh Black Media Federation invited The Pitt News to participate in a program that studied local media’s coverage of communities of color and other traditionally marginalized populations. Through this project, students at The Pitt News received professional guidance on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within journalism and learned how to implement them within our newsroom. 

Throughout the past six months, we’ve learned a lot about diversity, representation, engagement and building trust with both community members and staff members. Now that the project has ended, we’d like to share some of these goals with our readers. 

One of our first steps was developing and refining a mission statement that will guide our internal inclusion committee, and broader editorial goals moving forward. Here’s the mission statement:

“The Pitt News seeks to reflect Pitt’s student population and tell stories about people of many different backgrounds to make the newspaper a more welcome and inclusive space for the Pitt community. In our ongoing mission to improve The Pitt News, we will engage with the Pitt community to build trust and improve upon our newsroom’s diversity and inclusion efforts.”

Goal 1: Increase community engagement and build trust

We believe that it’s important to consistently engage with the Pitt community, especially communities of color and historically marginalized communities. We also must show the Pitt community that we are dedicated to short- and long-term diversity, equity and inclusion work. To accomplish this goal, we plan to increase community outreach particularly when hiring new staff members, build relationships with clubs, organizations, University departments and faculty on campus, and create a system for people to directly connect with the paper. 

Goal 2: Improve newsroom diversity and inclusion

It’s imperative that our staff is diverse in order to adequately cover the Pitt community, so students, faculty, staff and community members see themselves and their stories reflected in The Pitt News’ daily coverage. Cultivating an internal culture within the paper that is welcoming and inclusive for all students is equally important. We established three areas to help improve our newsroom diversity and inclusion: setting up active recruitment efforts, refining internal training opportunities and encouraging more collaboration among staff members.

This process has truly been a team effort and we’d be remiss without mentioning the numerous former and current staff members who helped create the mission statement and diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan: Ananya Pathapadu, Beck Barrett, Camryn Simons, Dalia Maeroff, Diana Velasquez, Ethan Tessler, Jon Moss, Loretta Donoghue, Martha Layne, Mary Rose O’Donnell, Rashi Ranjan, Sinead McDevitt, Stephen Thompson, Thomas Yang, Grace DeLallo, Jack Troy, Jermaine Sykes, Millicent Watt, Annika Esseku, Elle Kenney, Gabby Garvin, Harsh Hiwase, James Paul, Jiri Palayekar, Madilyn Cianci, Punya Bhasin, Richie Smiechowski, Shreya Singh, Toni Jackson, Alexandra Ross, Charlie Taylor and Trevor Weinstock. 

Please be in touch or fill out our feedback form if you have any questions or comments about this project.


Rebecca Johnson, Editor-in-Chief

Betul Tuncer, Managing Editor