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The Fall Diversity & Inclusion Committee of the Red & Black Is Introduced

In summer 2020, head Red & Black editors began holding regular meetings about diversity & inclusion at The Red & Black. This was the start of a committee to address newsroom issues, which developed into a formal Diversity & Inclusion Committee in spring 2021. Since the establishment of the team in January, nine students have been collaborating in an organization-wide priority to address diversity and inclusivity at our publication.

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee is tasked with making sure we follow through on this priority. The committee crafts initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion, brings in speakers, conducts workshops and reviews content. The committee meets regularly with desk editors to offer support and advice and with the recruitment team to ensure our outreach and training is inclusive to promote the presence of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), members with different abilities, sexual orientations and identities within our staff.

The committee consists of five newsroom and one sales team members who work alongside three student leaders — editor-in-chief, executive editor and managing editor. Two non-student staff members, the publisher and newsroom adviser, oversee the team.

Going forward, we have outlined ways to create an intentional and transparent presence within the newsroom. Currently, our team is focusing on highlighting diverse members in the community and expanding student outreach efforts to the underrepresented communities we cover.

Each week, the D&I team meets to discuss ways to connect student and non-student staff through interactive diversity and inclusion events and discussions.

Our newest addition to the newsroom is The Red & Black’s Official Source Database. Inspired by NPR’s Diverse Sources Database, it was created for writers, editors, photographers and contributors to use and add sources in an effort to strengthen community connections while ensuring we meet our standards for diverse sources.

The database holds different topics including health and wellness, artists and musicians, gender and LGBTQ issues, politics and Athens businesses.

At the end of August, the team completed diversity and inclusion meetings with each of the nine desks at The Red & Black when fall coverage began. Transparent conversations were held while setting semester-long goals and initiatives that uphold diversity and inclusion, including discussions of underrepresented peoples and how to support these communities.

Key takeaways included creating multiple series on diverse communities such as our Hispanic Heritage Month Oct. 7 paper edition which featured English and Spanish translated stories centered on the Hispanic community in UGA and Athens. This included coverage on restaurants, businesses, student organizations and athletes.

The culture desk additionally ran Hispanic Heritage Month stories on Athens Hispanic and Latino leaders and artists.

Within the newsroom, the diversity and inclusion team serves as a resource to desk editors and writers, meeting and communicating regularly to pitch, edit, discuss and review sensitive stories.

This semester, the team continued community spotlights, social media outreach on Instagram and our website and focused on creating a sustainable committee and presence at our student publication.

Most recently, our team hosted its first movie night event at The Red & Black office and introduced a mutual-mentorship program.

The program connects senior staff and editors with new contributors and writers to learn more about The Red & Black, discuss career goals and make new friends. Launching in October, the program will expand to Red & Black alumni for professionalism and career insights.

Senior account executive Ryan Jones is the newest member of the team from the sales desk at The Red & Black.

“We plan on creating exposure from an advertising perspective for businesses of diverse backgrounds across the city of Athens,” Jones said.

D&I committee members attend each of the weekly desk meetings once every two weeks to update writers on initiatives and events, and highlight diverse stories and promote an overall sense of inclusivity.

Although recognizing communities, events and leaders within the University of Georgia and Athens communities is our main focus, it is equally important to educate our organization on the national and international landscape and how those stories can affect us at a smaller scale.

By keeping our organization “in the know” about celebrations such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Black Heritage Month or holidays like Ramadan, Yom Kippur and Diwali, our team is able to connect members with various multicultural organizations on campus to build relationships and learn from each other’s cultures and backgrounds.

We are always trying to improve our coverage, especially of diverse community figures and stories. Our committee and newsroom is always open to feedback on how we can do better. Send any tips or constructive feedback to editor@randb.com.

The Red & Black’s fall diversity and inclusion committee. Top row, from left to right: Dania Kalaji, Liset Cruz, Jeremy Person, Sherry Liang, Simran Kaur Malhotra. Bottom row, from left to right: Ryan Jones, Jacqueline GaNun, Sophia Haynes and Erin Kenney.

Dania Kalaji | she/her

Dania Kalaji is a junior from Pensacola, Florida. Originally from Aleppo, Syria, Kalaji is the diversity and inclusion chair and assistant campus news editor. She is affiliated with the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association and is a Gannett and Freedom Forum Chips Quinn Diversity in Journalism Scholar. Approaching her second year at The Red & Black, Kalaji’s passion for storytelling has ultimately guided her to uplift the voices of underrepresented communities.

Sherry Liang | she/her

Sherry Liang is a senior from Johns Creek, Georgia. She is the Board Liaison and co-chairs the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Committee on the Board of Directors. She is also a CNN Digital Features Intern. Liang founded the UGA chapter of Asian American Journalists Association.

Jacqueline GaNun | she/her

Jacqueline GaNun is a junior from Savannah, Georgia. She is the fall 2021 editor-in-chief. Over the summer, she worked at The Current, an investigative news nonprofit in Savannah, covering poverty and public safety issues.

Sophia Haynes | she/her

Sophia Haynes is a senior from Johns Creek, Georgia, studying journalism and graphic design. She is the fall 2021 executive editor. During the summer, she interned as a graphic design intern at Prolifik Marketing in Athens. She previously worked for Grady College as a Yarbrough graphic fellow.

Jeremy Person | he/him

Jeremy Person is a senior from Lilburn, Georgia. He started the Community Spotlight initiative with Liset Cruz and serves as a staff writer. He is an independent content creator studying journalism and sociology.

Simran Kaur Malhotra | she/her

Simran Kaur Malhotra is the current health editor and a member of the D&I committee. As a pre-med student, she is studying anthropology and minoring in global health. Simran is the founder and CEO of UGA Doctors Without Borders, president of UGA Sikh Student Association and vice president of the UGA chapter of Asian American Journalists Association and UGA Pre-SOMA. She is also associated with the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Erin Kenney | she/her

Erin Kenney is the fall 2021 managing editor at The Red & Black, where she has worked as a writer covering Greek life, student life and local business. She has also served in assistant editor roles for the culture desk and the special publications team. She is a junior journalism and English major at the University of Georgia. An aspiring freelancer, Kenney also has bylines in Matador Network, Apartment Therapy and Down South House & Home.

Ryan Jones | he/him

Ryan is a senior account executive and member of the D&I Committee from Dunwoody, Georgia. He plans on graduating UGA with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Terry College of Business. Ryan plans on utilizing the skills he has learned from The Red & Black and embark on a career in sales upon graduation.

Liset Cruz | she/her

Liset is a member of the committee and helps translate pieces for our publication. She’s a senior journalism and sociology major with minors in Latinx studies and human services from Buford, Georgia. She’s a national student member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Investigative Reports and Editors, a final talent pool member of the T. Howard Foundation and a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar. After graduating, she intends to use the skills she acquired from The Red & Black and Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication to pursue investigative reporting.