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Coalition Calls for Day of Action for Diversity in Public Media

Nov. 10 to be recognized as a day for reflection, learning and action

A coalition of public media workers is calling for a specific day — Nov. 10 — to serve as a way to highlight the need to take action when it comes to diversity.

The National Federation of Community Broadcasters said there have been too many public leaders defending systemic problems or reflecting criticism at those who complain, said Ernesto Aguilar, program director for the NFCB, which is leading the call for action. “It felt like time to say, ‘it’s not just you’ and remind those concerned about the need for public media’s evolution.”

[Read: Community Broadcaster: Inclusive Service Is the Future]

Public Media For All, a coalition of public media workers, is calling on the industry to recognize Nov. 10 as a day for reflection, learning and action. Calling it a first-of-this-generation kind of proactive remediation, Public Media for All is hoping that at least 500 people in the public media industry will use Nov. 10 as a day when they take the day off either to focus on their own mental health or to devote community service hours in an effort to bring attention to diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

“In the last few years, public media has had controversies across the nation,” Aguilar said. “The places are all different but the stories are similar — longtime hosts and managers behaving toward peers and subordinates in ways that do not exemplify a station’s mission; trends of people of color in the industry with identical stories even as they’ve been marginalized; and social media testimony exposing misconduct anonymously, as whistleblowers fear for their jobs amid public media’s economic contraction.”

“It felt like time to say, ‘It’s not just you’ and remind those concerned about the need for public media’s evolution that they are not alone,” he said.

Some of those steps of action and education might involve volunteering with local service organizations supporting communities of color or talking with stations, boards and managers about the importance of diversity for the future of public media organizations.

The public media space is ideal for leading the charge for the need for more diversity in media in general because public media has, for so long, centered the power of people’s lives and stories so it’s natural that this medium is one that is starting to take these matters more seriously, Aguilar said. However, it must be said that the media space as a whole, public and commercial, is having its moment related to diversity.

“The culture is changing, audiences expect better, and old excuses are less acceptable,” he said. “But here, as we are seeing in public media’s most high-profile incidents, institutions, staff and donors are no longer willing to suffer management complicity or leaders attempting to rationalize or slink away after presiding over misconduct.”

There are four silos of action on the Public Media For All’s website, actions that can be taken by people of color, by white allies, by organizations and by public media fans.

What’s most important is that — both before and after Nov. 10 — individuals and organizations make substantive commitments to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion. “Such efforts can only make our organizations even better,” Aguilar said.