In a sign of hunger for the topic or perhaps an indicator of the journalism job market, or both, NPR has received more than 1,300 applications for four positions on its new race-relations reporting team, according to Matt Thompson, the NPR journalist who is heading the team.
“We’re still accepting applications for one position (the reporter spot); we’ve stopped accepting applications for the other three positions, but are busily reviewing resumes and conducting interviews for them still,” Thompson told Journal-isms by email on Friday.
At the Unity ’12 convention in Las Vegas in August, Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of NPR, announced a $1.5 million, two-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting “to launch a major journalism initiative to deepen coverage of race, ethnicity and culture.” He said he was “delivering on our promise for NPR to look and sound like America.”
A six-person team is to “deliver a steady flow of distinctive coverage on every platform. Reporting will magnify the range of existing efforts across NPR and its Member Stations to cover and discuss race, ethnicity and culture. NPR will also create a new, branded space within NPR.org,” NPR said in its announcement then.
The team includes Thompson, who says his business cards now say “Manager of Digital Initiatives (and Mischief),” supervising the team, working with Ellen McDonnell, executive editor of NPR News programming; Luis Clemens, NPR’s senior editor for diversity, who is senior editor of the team, and Karen Grigsby Bates, Los Angeles-based correspondent.
NPR advertised for a blogger on race, ethnicity and culture; a digital journalist; and two reporters.
Thompson and Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for diversity in news and operations, spoke with 25 Washington journalists of color over dinner Tuesday about the project. Most were veterans, and some had worked at NPR.
Many of the questions concerned permeating the NPR corporate culture, which has long been seen as a chief impediment to greater diversity. Some wondered whether race relations coverage at NPR might not become ghettoized, as has sometimes happened at media outlets that have created race relations beats. When cutbacks come, such beats become more vulnerable.