Congrats, Sisi, on the IWMF’S 2021 Gwen Ifill award!

A woman, Sisi, sitting in a chair and smiling as she looks at the class.

Sisi teaching at the Data Institute, an intensive workshop that teaches journalists how to use data, design and code. Each year, over 50% Data Institute students are women of color. Co-founded by Sisi Wei and Lena Groeger in 2016 while they worked together at ProPublica, it is currently hosted by the Ida B. Wells Society, ProPublica, and OpenNews. (Photo by Andrew Wang, Data Institute Class of 2017)

We are thrilled to share that OpenNews co-executive director Sisi Wei has been named the recipient of the 2021 Gwen Ifill award, by the International Women’s Media Foundation.

The award honors Ifill’s legacy as an incredible journalist and advocate for journalists of color. Sisi’s work embodies that legacy, both before coming to OpenNews and in developing programs like the DEI Coalition here. As Sisi put it “There aren’t many awards in this industry that recognize people for helping others, and that recognition of the importance of individual efforts in pursuit of collective goals is fundamental to the DEI Coalition and all of our work at OpenNews.

Regardless of job title or experience level, we know that people all across the journalism industry are pushing to make it a better place to work and to be an industry that works first in service of its communities, not just shareholders. To us, this award recognizes so many principles that we find critically important at OpenNews — learning from one another, designing spaces to help people connect, and being generous about sharing knowledge and expertise. These are all principles we see as essential to building a future where journalism values everyone, and all journalists enjoy the same levels of respect, support, and opportunity.

We see each other as peers to learn from, and put aside titles and hierarchies. We believe that when people are able to genuinely connect with each other as individuals, those relationships become the foundation for building trust and space for vulnerability. Only then can we create wider networks of action and support.

We design to include, not exclude. We know that everyone has something to contribute and that we need the perspectives of everyone in journalism (and beyond) in order to solve this industry’s most difficult problems. Ensuring that everyone is able to contribute though, does not happen by accident and takes intentional design. For the DEI Coalition, this was a collaborative process with more than 100 volunteers, facilitated by Sisi and four committee leads.

We share. A lot. We share not only ideas, processes, and techniques, but also money, resources, and power. Only through sharing from a place of abundance, empathy, and mutual respect, can we create cultures of belonging, and build the skills we need to ensure that is the reality for the entire industry.

These principles animate everything we do at OpenNews, and we take so much inspiration from Gwen Ifill and the team at IWMF who understand the importance of this work and honoring its leaders. As Ella Baker said, “… there’s a lot of difference between the development of single individuals as leaders and the development of leadership, with leadership concepts, leadership goals, leadership methods that people can follow after we have moved on, and we must all move on from one point to the other.” Baker, and her teachings on leader-full movements, is a core part of how OpenNews thinks about movements and changemaking, and we are so grateful to be in this work together with hundreds of other journalism leaders.

We receive so much inspiration and knowledge from the leaders who have come before us, especially Black women, and we could not be more honored that Sisi will be the fifth Gwen Ifill award recipient since it was founded in 2017, and joining the ranks of four incredible Black women who have broken barriers in the journalism industry.

The Data Institute Class of 2021 poses for a virtual class photo.

In 2021, the Data Institute was held virtually for the first time, and students gathered on Zoom for a one-week intensive workshop.

If you’d like to join in celebrating not only Sisi’s work, but the work of all the grounded leaders who make a difference in our industry, we invite you to reach out to those you have learned from and tell them about the difference they’ve made in your life.

If you’d like to join in taking concrete action in service of a more anti-racist, equitable and just journalism industry, we invite you to join the DEI Coalition Slack.

posted October 07, 2021 | posted in OpenNews