I’m not a fan of the term “now more than ever,” but it seems appropriate for the current moment. We are facing the overlapping crises of a global pandemic, historic unemployment, an ongoing reckoning with the state and nation’s history of racism, widespread wildfires and a contentious national election. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that people can trust the news they consume.
At times like these, journalists have to rise to the occasion and reassure people we care about them and share their concerns about the state of the world. These are the times I created the Emerald Trust Project for.
The project’s mission is to increase transparency, inclusion and trust between members of the community and those who report the news. Early this summer, that mission led the Emerald to take a stance in support of anti-racism and against police brutality. However, we recognize simply saying we believe Black lives matter is not enough; We’ve also instituted new recruiting and hiring practices to be more inclusive. Now, if a hiring decision comes down to two equally qualified applicants, one of whom is from an underrepresented background, we’ll hire the one who’s less likely to have their voice heard elsewhere. This isn’t an act of charity; it’s a recognition that we and our audience both benefit from more diverse perspectives — and that those backgrounds are an asset, not a detriment, to one’s reporting ability.
Beginning fall term, we will also reach out more to the campus community. Journalists from the Emerald newsroom will begin attending meetings of student groups that are often missing from our coverage. The reporters’ job won’t just be to sniff out stories, but to get to know community members, their values, goals and fears. We don’t want to only be present in people’s lives when things are going wrong, something we’ve seen so much of with national press outlets in Portland over the past few months.
The Emerald continues to commit itself to innovating and expanding upon the ETP, but we don’t want to assume what our audience needs. We’re asking that you get involved. If you’re a UO student, apply to work at the Emerald. If you have an idea about expanding the ETP, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you have a story idea about something in your community, reach out to one of our talented reporters.
Ultimately, this project is a recognition of the ills of the journalism industry at large and the harm it’s caused by othering so many over the years. However, we also recognize that we aren’t powerless to change things. If we want the industry to improve, we should start where we stand.
C. Francis O’Leary is the Daily Emerald’s managing editor and coordinator of equity and inclusion.