In support of Public Media For All
by Sisi Wei
Public Media For All is a diverse coalition of public media workers, led by people of color. They are “raising awareness of the negative effects of a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in public media, and sharing solutions for individuals and organizations.” We at OpenNews know that both our staff and many community members support their mission wholeheartedly, and joined the Public Media For All day of action and education on Nov. 10, 2020.
I was honored to be asked by the coalition to talk about my journey in this work during their event. A couple participants asked for a transcript of the talks, so we’re posting a transcript of the video I prepared below.
Public Media For All has also posted the full recording of their Nov. 10 webinar, which includes not only other speakers, but also shares the stories of people of color in public media, and the racism they’ve experienced. Please check it out.
Hi everyone. I’m so happy to be here in support of Public Media For All, and to tell you about my own journey doing this work, as well as what we’ve been doing at OpenNews to push for change in journalism.
My name is Sisi Wei and I work at OpenNews, where we are supporting a movement in journalism — one that is fighting for a future where all journalists can work in newsrooms that are anti-racist, equitable, inclusive, and collaborative, and where the communities we’ve long ignored can trust in journalism again, or for the first time ever.
I’m recording this video on Nov. 6, which is three days after the U.S. election, and before any final results have come out. But no matter who wins, what will always be true is how close the election was, and the message that sends to communities of color, journalists included.
As Roxanne Gay wrote in her op-ed in the New York Times this morning, what we’ve seen is that: “We live in two countries. In one, people are willing to grapple with racism and bigotry. … [the other] is committed to defending white supremacy and patriarchy at all costs.”
Over the last few days, I’ve seen people of color react in so many different ways, ranging from heartbreak, to exhaustion, to fear. For many folks, Roxanne included, such a close race isn’t even a surprise because they’ve always understood how racist the country and its systems have been.
In moments like this, the work we do on the ground level can feel overwhelming, and dreams of being able to live and work just in an anti-racist industry — it feels distant.
I don’t think anyone coming to today’s day of action is giving up though. We all may need to take breaks once in a while, because this work can be draining. But all of you also showed up here today, even if it’s just to listen and learn, and that’s step one in taking action and showing solidarity.
The vision of Public Media For All is similar to a daydream I’ve had for a while now. The idea that we could have journalism institutions that weave diversity, equity and inclusion into their very nature — at events we organize, in our coverage, on our staff, in their pay, in our leaders, and in the guidance and trust we get from our communities — that all sounds like a dream, because it’s so hard to find examples of organizations that live up to that standard in journalism.
Honestly, I used to just imagine what it might feel like to work at a place where DEI work wasn’t my burden, or the burden of other POCs, but actually something that my white colleagues proactively educated themselves about constantly, and did the work to advocate for their POC colleagues and for a workplace that treats them equally and justly.
However, I have personally been doing this work for many years now, and this year, there are two big initiatives that I’ve been really proud to kick off, because I think they’re really going to make a big difference.
The first is Vision25. It’s a collaboration between OpenNews, the Online News Association, and the Maynard Institute to pursue change on a massive scale — an industry level scale — aimed at the ultimate goal of creating anti-racist organizations that become institutions of belonging. Places where people of color actually feel like they truly belong, not just tolerated or simply included. We’re looking to create social change in the way people think and act and treat each other, to meet the social change movement the country finds itself in right now.
The second initiative is the DEI Coalition for Anti-Racist, Equitable, and Just Newsrooms, which is grassroots work in many ways. Alongside our OpenNews community, over 100 people are coming together to create community spaces dedicated to organizing, to help journalists who are in the fight to change their newsrooms learn from each other and give solidarity to one another. One of those community spaces will also be dedicated to managers who are committed to change, and face their own challenges on how to make change happen. Ultimately, the DEI Coalition is collective work done with the community, to give anyone who wants to work and exert pressure and negotiate and demand, a place to learn and work together.
Vision25, the DEI Coalition, and Public Media For All, share something really important in common: anyone can help or participate in some way, and the work centers people and our collective agency to take action and demand better.
Plus, doing this work across multiple initiatives, with our different perspectives and passions, and with our genuine interest and curiosity about people and telling stories, all of that enables us to better understand each other and take action together to create more just organizations and communities.
So, I started with a quote from Roxanne’s op-ed today, and I wanted to close with one too. She is one of my favorite writers, after all.
She wrote: “This is America, a country desperately divided, and desperately flawed. The future of this country is uncertain but it is not hopeless. I am ready to fight for that future, no matter what it holds. Are you?”
Thank you all for being here today, building this movement together.
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