SEJ Stands With Journalists of Color Speaking Out About Systemic Racism

diversity hand circle imageJune 9, 2020 — The Society of Environmental Journalists stands with journalists of color who are shedding light on systemic racism, inequities, and discrimination inside and outside of the newsroom.

We condemn violence against people who are peacefully protesting police killings of Black people, and violence against journalists reporting on them. We condemn the silencing of Black voices in any newsroom, as well as voices from other underrepresented communities.  

SEJ’s mission is to strengthen the quality, reach and viability of journalism across all media to advance public understanding of environmental issues. These stories often involve abuses by those with economic and political power against those with less, and those abuses are often rooted in racism. Journalists covering environmental injustice, public health and climate change must inform the public about how the systems in our society perpetuate inequities. For instance, the coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people of color, as do climate change and industrial pollution.

We also have a responsibility to examine our own industry and how racist structures affect our news choices, story framing, reporting and editing, as well as the treatment of our colleagues of color in their workplaces.

SEJ is overwhelmingly white. The field of environmental journalism is overwhelmingly white. This is not only a disservice to our newsrooms and organizations, but also to the public. Ensuring environmental stories are told from diverse perspectives and reach underserved audiences deepens understanding of these issues for all members of the public.

It is essential that we ensure our colleagues of color feel welcome to join SEJ and become leaders in the organization, and find value in their membership. We have much to do to reach these goals.

Below are some steps we are currently taking and/or planning to take:

Governance: Under the leadership of SEJ Board President Meera Subramanian, SEJ established a board-level Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee to recommit to our work in making this organization equitable and inclusive. SEJ's forthcoming strategic plan, which incorporates lessons learned from our participation in a year-long DEI training, will integrate commitments to racial equity across all aspects of our work.

Membership: We will continue to foster the SEJ-Diversity listserv, a forum for SEJ members to collaborate, network, and share resources and support. We are working to expand our volunteer mentor program to provide greater capacity and support for mentoring new and mid-career environmental journalists of color. And we are focusing on recruiting SEJ members of color for leadership positions.

Representation: SEJ member volunteers will continue to organize plenaries, workshops, tracks, tours and panels on environmental racism and justice at our annual conference and other events. Dedicated funding for racially and ethnically diverse speakers and fellows will support their participation and inclusion. And we will do more to ensure that our events are equitable and reflect these diverse perspectives.

Allyship: We will seek to be supportive allies to affinity groups, like the Environmental Journalists of Color. For the last two years, we've waived fees or offered discounted member rates to members of affinity organizations, including the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association, among others. We will seek additional opportunities to partner that are welcomed by, and don't compete with, our colleagues of color.

Funding: More than 70% of our last round of story grants were awarded for projects about or from under-represented communities. Going forward, we will work with our foundation partners to expand and deepen our efforts to support journalists and communities of color through our grant-making and program design.

This list is not exhaustive by any means — it is only the beginning. We are committed to the work of achieving racial equality within SEJ and in the news industry at large so that we can continue to expose the systemic forces that cause both human and environmental degradation.