While newsrooms have covered issues of diversity and representation for years, they still struggle with them within their own organizations. Vanessa Vancour, Reynolds School professor and editor of Noticiero Móvil, is part of a national initiative to help address these problems called the Online News Association's Mentorship Collaborative.
The goal of the collaborative is to help newsrooms take steps toward incorporating the tenets of diversity and inclusion internally. This nationwide effort to bolster mentorship in newsrooms for young journalists, especially those of minority groups, includes 125 participants across more than 100 small and large organizations. The collaborative's focus is to create a national community of newsrooms that can share best practices when it comes to mentorship and diversity. Vancour is one of six professionals, and the only academic, on the collaborative's leadership team.
"Our role is to help advise with those news organizations with mentorship and help demonstrate that it's not just about recruitment, but it really is about retention and nurturing relationships in the newsroom," Vancour said. "That can mean pairing emerging journalists with journalists with more experience or having someone that you can talk to if you're having issues about diversity in your newsroom or any number of issues related to it."
Vancour has made a career out of working to improve diversity of coverage in newsrooms through mentorship and leadership. One of her largest initiatives is the creation of Noticiero Móvil, a bilingual news program aimed at improving coverage of Latinx issues in northern Nevada. The program is conducted through the Reynolds School of Journalism and was made possible through an Online News Association grant. Vancour also serves as a mentor to students during the National Public Radio Next Generation Bootcamp.
Vancour's involvement in ONA's most recent effort to encourage diversity in the newsroom and in coverage marks her next step toward making a difference on a national level. It was Vancour's passion for promoting diversity and the Reynolds School's faculty mentorship that caught the eye of Doug Mitchell, director of NPR's Next Generation Radio Bootcamp and project lead at ONA. When Mitchell reached out to Alan Stavitsky, dean of the Reynolds School, to discuss Vancour's work, she came highly recommended.
"It speaks volumes of Vanessa's national reputation that she was selected for the leadership team of the ONA mentorship initiative," Stavitsky said. "This will serve the next generation of journalists as well as raise the profile of the Reynolds School in the professional community."
For Vancour, the opportunity to work with professionals from around the country to help create a better, more sustainable environment for aspiring journalists from underrepresented communities is an opportunity that simply could not be passed for both her students and the Reynolds School at large.
"I'm really excited for me to have this insight because I don't work in a newsroom, and to be able to understand some of the challenges that real newsrooms and employers face is vital to our students' success," Vancour said. "We're on the front end of getting our students excited about the possibilities that exist, and for the students who care about diversity in newsrooms, I want to be able to come back and say there are people out there who share your values and there are opportunities that align with that."
For more information about the ONA Mentorship Collaborative or how to become involved, visit the Online News Association's website.