Dear Public radio, to better serve your listening audiences you must do better with POC journalists

Photo by OCV PHOTO on Unsplash

The following piece comes from a Black journalist working in public radio. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject, they preferred to use an alias to protect their identity.

So here is my big “aha.” I’m a late-in-life public radio journalist that just moved to start my second job. What I’m about to say isn’t a crack on my first or my current job, especially my current one, because I started in the middle of a pandemic when we’re all working remotely. But as someone in my 50s, who has had my share of careers and jobs, I know that Black people and other POC, are held to a higher standard from the day we start a job.

By some or most of the people in a new shop we’re still deemed an affirmative action hire who has to prove their competence. We all know that means that on a subconscious level there is often a quicker judgment evaluation on how quickly we “take” to a job.

Yet, in my anecdotal observation which includes talking to friends – public radio stations aren’t always great about training. When it comes to the technical aspect it tends to be very sink-or-swim. Which means there is even less wiggle room for a POC starting off on a good foot at a new job.

So as we are all moving forward with a more conscious awareness of how to have these stations do better, here are some suggestions/ideas I have for those of us working in the profession:

  1. Keep a better eye on how new POC employees are trained. When you take someone right out of college or new to the profession under your wing, double check that they feel comfortable with new equipment and/or with your particular station’s way of doing something.
  2. Pay attention to what narratives people are passing on about a new POC and their learning curves. Without passing on gossip, pass on knowledge, advice, tips, shortcuts, whatever.

Radio – no matter what job you have – has the kind of skill sets you can’t BS on. It’s not like some professions where you can fake it for years until you make it. Bad audio is bad audio.

While what I’m saying applies to any profession, I still wonder how many POC left public radio journalism prematurely or changed jobs under a cloud, just because they never got a good handle on doing the job in the first place–while being judged at a far quicker and harsher rate than their white counterparts.

Anyway, I hope this makes sense. I love public radio, but like EVERY industry in America we can do better. And that starts with helping to support the success and self esteem of our brothers and sisters from the second they walk in the door.