It’s easy to take the Treasure Coast’s natural resources for granted.
One of my favorite views is driving east over the peak of any of our high bridges that span the beautiful Indian River Lagoon. For a few brief seconds, I see the seemingly endless ocean glistening from the sun rays, miles of unspoiled beaches and lush vegetation across the barrier island.
It’s breathtaking. Most residents can visualize this scene.
But a Black community leader recently told me some of our neighbors of color have never seen it — despite living a few miles from a bridge for years or decades. Simply put, he said many minorities here do not have the time or resources to enjoy it, and some feel out of place or unwelcomed among a sea of people who do not look or talk like them.
It was a stark reminder of how far we are from equality in our community and those across the country.
Race, diversity, social injustice and inequality are topics that can be difficult and uncomfortable to discuss, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, said it best: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The TCPalm newsroom is committed to engaging in diverse audiences and becoming more diverse ourselves.
More: Gannett news president: Diversity and inclusion are choices, not just words. Today we reaffirm our mission.
I want to be transparent about our company’s diversity goals and where we currently fall short. TCPalm and its parent company, Gannett, have committed to ensuring parity by 2025.
Change starts in our local newsroom.
It’s important to have a diverse and inclusive news organization that reflects the community it serves. Gannett recently conducted a diversity census for its more than 260 newsrooms across the country.
We’ve made significant gains locally in recent years, but there’s more work to do.
For instance, the census showed 60% of the local newsroom’s leadership team is made up of women compared to the Treasure Coast’s collective makeup being about 50/50. (About 44% of newsroom journalists are women.) And 20% of the leadership is Hispanic, compared to 17% of the Treasure Coast population that identifies as Hispanic.
However, the TCPalm newsroom is 78% white, but the communities we serve are 66% white. Also, about 14% of the Treasure Coast identifies as Black, but the newsroom is about half of that.
These aren’t just numbers or targets. They represent opportunities, commonalities and differences.
More: Having a diverse newsroom is critical to telling stories about the Treasure Coast. Here’s a look at our staff.
Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties do not look the same today as they did decades ago, and we are stronger for it.
Having a newsroom of journalists that more accurately reflect the makeup of the community is an important step in serving all readers. We will always hire the best and most qualified journalists, but we can do a better job finding diverse candidates.
As part of the company’s overall commitment to diversity and inclusion, we will annually publish the makeup of our newsroom staff.
The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others have brought the conversation around social injustice back in the forefront.
Protests across the county and locally have demanded change. TCPalm covered local protests, but that’s only the first step.
Since then, we have published in-depth content around how local schools teach race, shed light on a minority community that was threatened with evictions during a pandemic emergency, let some of the student leaders tell the community why they are protesting – in their own words – and more.
TCPalm journalists also started an internal open, honest and judgement-free monthly discussion around diversity and covering underserved communities.
Part of the DNA of any newspaper is to give a voice to the voiceless and spotlight injustices.
We are committed to engaging all communities. We invite you to include your thoughts in a letter to editor or guest column. Or, you can contact me directly at email@example.com to share your thoughts.
This commitment does not mean we stop covering other topics important to you. It means we change the way we cover them to include all the communities we serve.
We want to spend time listening to underserved communities and leaders to better understand issues. It’s important to promote the understanding of complex issues and seek solutions, much like we’ve done in the last several years on the Indian River Lagoon.
This isn’t simply an initiative. It’s who we are. Diversity makes us stronger.
Let’s work together to educate and change the world — even our little corner of it. Like the view of the ocean from atop of our bridges, the opportunities are endless.
Adam L. Neal is the editor and news director of TCPalm.com and Treasure Coast Newspapers, including the Indian River Press Journal, St. Lucie News Tribune and Stuart News. Connect with him at @TCPalmAdamNeal on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat.