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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Our mission

We envision a thriving Chicago that is vibrant, equitable, and inclusive.

Our mission is to strengthen the well-being of our local communities and our democracy through independent local journalism. We produce accessible, trusted news, information, and programming that helps all Chicago area residents make informed decisions every day, participate in our diverse communities, and make the most of our region.

To fulfill our mission, we are committed to creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization – reflected in the content we produce, the policies we practice, and the culture we perpetuate.


How we work

Our DEIB Council

To guide our DEIB journey, we created a staff-led DEIB Council that works in partnership with our leadership to nurture a workplace culture that is equitable, diverse and vibrant, and that ensures accountability and transparency. The council’s broad membership includes a diverse cross section of staff across roles, departments, gender, age, race, ethnicity, and LGBTQ+ status, helping ensure we take a holistic view of our organization.


Michael Puente

Michael Puente

“Being on the DEIB Council requires you to pay closer attention to the world you live in. It not only educates you on other cultures, customs, and lifestyles, it fosters acceptance and understanding. That not only makes you a better journalist but a better person.”

-Mike Puente, reporter and DEIB Council member

Heena Srivastava

Heena Srivastava

“I joined the DEI Council soon after being hired when a coworker suggested it. WBEZ and CPM holistically have such passion for making the organization inclusive and safe, but I was seeing its shortcomings in execution, and I wanted to be part of the team that brings it closer to its mission. I’m also one of the only South Asian people in the company, and I’m always trying to make Gen Z speak louder, so I felt that my perspective was necessary at the table.”

-Heena Srivastava, podcast producer; DEIB Council co-leader

Natalie Moore

Natalie Moore

“As a DEIB council member, I’ve been heartened at the commitment of my colleagues to decide and design what equity looks like in our workplace. The recommendations are creative and grounded from the bottom up.”

-Natalie Moore, editor; reporter; DEIB Council ombudsperson and member


Our DEIB Action Plan

Our DEIB Council, in partnership with leadership, created a DEI Action Plan: “To fulfill our mission at Chicago Public Media, we must commit to creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive CPM reflected in the work we produce, the policies we practice and the culture we perpetuate.”

We embarked on this journey focused on three pillars:

  • Recruiting, hiring, and retaining a diverse staff at all levels
  • Cultivating a culture of inclusivity and opportunity
  • Aligning our content and audience with the demographics of our coverage area

Our progress

Recruit, Hire and Retain a Diverse Staff at All Levels

In FY23, we expanded our access to diverse talent pools through aggressive word-of-mouth, proactive pursuit of community partnerships, and acquiring and leveraging state-of-the-art platforms.

RESULTS:

  • Funded CPM’s first-ever full-time DEIB Manager role.
  • Expanded our H.R. department to provide more support and leadership for talent development (through a diversity lens) and invest in new technologies, platforms, and processes to improve hiring and retention.
  • Increased funding for the H.R. Department to enable outreach, training, and development.
  • Funded and supported the first-ever full organizational presence at the National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists Unity Convention (NABJ/NAHJ).
  • Funded and actioned first-ever market compensation and pay equity study, receiving Equal Pay Registration Certification from the Illinois Department of Labor.
  • We recruited and established the most diverse executive team, staff, and board in CPM’s history. Our Board went from 72% white in early 2020 to 48% white in late 2023. The new Chicago Sun-Times board is 80% persons of color.

Nurture a Culture of Inclusivity

In FY23, we expanded our efforts to foster a sense of belonging for our staff through a focus on training and development opportunities.

RESULTS:

  • Produced regular cultural celebrations and educational opportunities for staff.
  • Partnered with “The Power Shift Project,” a national, industry-wide initiative to improve the quality and future of journalism by improving the diversity, equity, and culture of news organizations. The project’s “Workplace Integrity” training program’s “Train the Trainers” philosophy is helping CPM create the next generation of DEIB advocates and mentors in our workplace. We integrated the “Workplace Integrity” workshop into our new employee onboarding process, and CPM leaders facilitated two sessions for 20 new staff members in critical thinking to help them apply core journalism principles to workplace interactions and also analyze common statements used to downplay harassment, discrimination, and incivility. Other sessions included information and discussion on how to be an authentic ally, and ways we can create a workplace culture centering on respect and trust.
  • Partnered with CZL-PC, a Chicago-based, Black woman-owned firm to facilitate our Chicago city government’s mandated harassment and bystander training beyond simply “checking the box” for compliance. Training dove into high-priority topics identified by our staff, including microaggressions, antiracist and authentic allyship, gender/orientation insensitivity, and assessment of our company’s policies and protocols.

Ensure that our content and products reflect and serve an audience representative of our region

In FY23, our flagship programs centered a diverse range of voices, from hosts to sources, in telling our community’s story. We expanded our research efforts to better understand the needs and experiences of local news consumers, and expanded our community engagement efforts through surveys, events, and workshops.

RESULTS:

  • Following the acquisition of the Chicago Sun-Times in January 2022, Chicago Public Media hired Jennifer Kho, the first female and first POC to lead the Sun-Times newsroom.
  • Dropped the paywall from the Sun-Times website in October 2022, to make high-quality news available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay, and introduced a donation-based digital membership program.
  • Conducted a year-long research study into the needs, opinions and habits of local news consumers, including a large, representative survey and dozens of in-depth interviews, to help improve our work on behalf of our community.
  • Increased investment in The Goods, Vocalo’s arts and culture newsletter targeting young people of color in Chicagoland, growing its audience 67% to 45,000 subscribers at the end of FY23.
  • Funded increased staffing and supported repositioning the Community Engagement and Live Events team to focus efforts on four underserved Chicago communities, resulting in more than three dozen community touchpoints (tabling, canvassing, in-person visits, and events) to engage with communities we serve, as well as monthly live performances, talks, and storytelling events to bring communities together.
  • Established a new “right to be forgotten” policy, that allows individuals to request we de-index some past crime stories on the Sun-Times website that may have caused harm.

Tracy Brown

Tracy Brown

“One of our most important organizational commitments is strengthening our engagement efforts with our communities, particularly those underrepresented and underserved. We’re faithful to that promise with regular listening sessions throughout the city and new engagement tools that allow us to hear directly from residents about issues such as elections and government. There’s much work to be done in being more present in our coverage and in our service, and we’re holding ourselves accountable.”

-Tracy Brown, Chief Content Officer

Jennifer Kho

Jennifer Kho

“In a metro area as diverse as Chicago’s, DEIB is essential to our work and mission. We aim to empower Chicago-area residents with information they need to participate in, improve, and make the most of our communities. People of color are the majority of our readers (over 53%), according to a third-party survey. We dropped our paywall to make our content available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay. In February 2023, we launched our Chicago’s Next Voices contest to find new guest columnists from our communities. In March 2023, we relaunched La Voz as a bilingual publication and expanded its coverage for, by, and about the Chicago area’s Latino communities. In June, we established a new “right to be forgotten” policy to deindex some past crime stories that have caused individual harm.”

-Jennifer Kho, Executive Editor, Chicago Sun-Times

Nathalie Kohen

Natalie Kohen

“Our team advances DEIB by nurturing meaningful connections and facilitating in-person interactions. We partnered with the Chicago Sun-Times to curate an ongoing series of dynamic listening sessions, designed to foster and rebuild trust within communities historically overlooked or underrepresented by Chicago Public Media. We take pride in organizing a diverse array of free events throughout the city, to enhance well-being in our communities. Our events include Vocalo’s summer programs, our Food Aid Festival, and community forums that connect our newsroom with local residents. We also strive to prioritize accessibility for all of our events.”

-Nathalie Kohen, Director of Community Engagement and Live Events


By the numbers


Get involved

The Sounding Board is a community advisory board that reviews the programming and significant policy decisions of a Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funded public broadcasting station and advises the station on how it serves its coverage area’s educational and cultural needs. Its mission is to “provide meaningful feedback about Chicago Public Media programming and policies and to represent the diverse needs and interests of the communities it serves.”

Beyond CPB’s requirement, we know we must be plugged into and present for the communities we serve, and we have put years of hard work into ensuring The Sounding Board authentically represents Chicago’s diverse communities. All Sounding Board Meetings are open to the public.

Apply to join the Sounding Board or learn how to attend a meeting here.


Miguel Blancarte, Jr.

Miguel Blancarte, Jr.

“The Sounding Board is a vital instrument for ensuring diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at and for Chicago Public Media as it injects community perspective into CPM programming and policies. As a diverse community advisory board representing the needs and interests of the vibrant communities CPM serves, the Sounding Board is an intentional and necessary listening and accountability mechanism that advises CPM on how best to serve our communities.”

-Miguel Blancarte, Jr., Sounding Board co-chair