Diversity, equity and inclusion at WBUR

A note from our CEO: 

I believe that public media is one of the last great hopes for journalism — a cornerstone of our democracy — and we’re at a critical inflection point. This is a moment of transformation for journalism itself as we grapple honestly and ambitiously with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The work begins at home. At WBUR we understand that the profound inequities that persist in our country and our city are reflected in our own institution. Addressing these inequities requires real change in our culture, our coverage, our hiring, our leadership and our staff development.

WBUR is committed to building a staff, leadership team and boards that reflect our diverse city and region. So we look and sound like the people we hope to serve in Boston and beyond. This will make our journalism — on-air, online, on-demand and on stage — richer, deeper, more complete and more welcoming to more people.

WBUR wants to design an organization where everyone thrives. We must hire, support, develop, advance and retain diverse talent at all levels of the organization. The issues we’re confronting have been part of the fabric of our country since its founding. We’re not going to fix everything overnight. It’s going to take all of us to make a meaningful difference — our future depends on it.

There is joy in opening doors and building bridges across differences. We will bring the same appetite for discovery that makes us believe in the power of journalism to deepen understanding and make the world a better place.

— Margaret Low, WBUR CEO

A Snapshot of Where We Are Today

We know that stubborn patterns persist at WBUR and that to take big, bold strides we must spotlight our blindspots and be ready to live in the discomfort of change. We also recognize how much work we have to do. That said, there is already a slow transformation underway and we’re genuinely excited about that. Since the summer of 2020 we’ve taken some meaningful steps that — when considered together — move us toward becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. These actions fall into three buckets: People and Culture; Our Journalism; An Organizational Focus on Equity.

We’re sharing this now, because we believe that it’s valuable to take stock along the way, to note what we’ve accomplished so far and to acknowledge the distance we have to go. So we’ve captured some initial efforts here, accompanied by the data on the demographics of our entire staff and boards.

What we’ve laid out below is just a beginning. Our next task is to design a complete DEI roadmap, with clear and measurable goals. We can’t wait to get started.

People and Culture

  • Hired WBUR’s first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion who will report directly to the CEO. This person will help lead systemic change and drive an organization-wide strategy to embed principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in all dimensions of our work.
  • Established WBUR's first-ever Talent and Culture team, charged with planning, developing and implementing programs to support employee development and a vibrant and inclusive organizational culture.
  • Our staff, the WBUR Board and our Community Advisory Board participated in rich, multi-session workshops with Beyond Binaries. A firm that helps organizations better understand the roots of racism and oppression through an exploration of history and identity.

In Our Journalism

  • Expanded our commitment to audit and analyze the voices and sources in our journalism. The goal of this comprehensive undertaking is to ensure that we represent the full spectrum of diversity of Greater Boston and better serve our audiences and community.
  • Following the murder of George Floyd, developed a style guide specifically for the protest movement and policing to ensure the language we use in our coverage is thoughtful, contextual and precise.
  • Launched a new reporting project on Race, Equity and Identity to explore inequality in Boston through the lens of race, money and power.
  • Further invested in future generations of journalists with the development of WBUR's newsroom fellowship program — two year-long salaried, benefited positions each year — aimed at advancing underrepresented voices in public radio.
  • Made all WBUR internships paid positions.

An Organizational Focus on Equity

  • Created the Equity Advisory Council, WBUR's central body for exploring issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. The group, which is open to anyone who wants to participate, complements other committees including our Culture and Climate Steering Committee, Diverse Voices Committee and the SAG-AFTRA Diversity Committee.
  • Produce a weekly all-staff note that now includes every new job opportunity at WBUR and all open positions are now posted. Everyone who is interested is encouraged to apply. This is more transparent than WBUR has been in the past and creates a level playing field.
  • Established a goal for editorial leadership and host hires, that at least 50% of the  candidates we interview will be people of color or from groups underrepresented at WBUR. We will strive to make this an across the board hiring standard.
  • Completed a pay-equity analysis in 2021, resulting in salary increases for more than 75% of SAG-AFTRA represented colleagues. This was a transformational initiative, ensuring that WBUR is a fair and inclusive place to work. A similar equity analysis is planned for the rest of WBUR employees in early 2022.

What we’ve laid out above represents the work of dozens of people across WBUR. It should also be said that there are many colleagues — both past and present — who have been at this for a very long time. This work is ongoing and WBUR will publish yearly updates each fall going forward.

Staff and Board Demographics

The data visualizations below tell an important part of the story. They capture where we are today. There is clearly work to do before we realize our ambition to fully reflect the communities we serve. And understanding our present is essential to making meaningful change. We have to acknowledge our gaps and commit to not just counting the people, but making sure the people count.

To populate the visualizations for staff, we used data collected during the job application process, via the Boston University application form. (While WBUR has an independent governing board, we are part of BU.) Currently, applicants must opt in to self-identify using somewhat limited, preset race/ethnicity and gender categories. Looking ahead, we hope to develop a more inclusive approach to self-identification, including a greater range of choices. The visualizations reflect the full and part time staff and fellows who were employed by WBUR as of September 30, 2021. You will also see data on both the WBUR Board of Directors and our Community Advisory Board.


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