August 17, 2022

When Emma Carew Grovum started talking with local newsrooms and editors about journalists of color, she heard the same thing again and again: “We can’t keep folks in local news because they’re getting scooped up by The New York Times and The Washington Post.”

She gets it.

“Who’s going to fault somebody for doubling their salary?”

But Carew Grovum wondered “what if someone knew that they were going to be the future of their newsroom?”

The way managers and editors talk about employees and their future doesn’t often trickle down to that employee. With the continuing absence of journalists of color in newsrooms and the compounding business and audience struggles at the local level, Carew Grovum decided to try a different approach.

As a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, she piloted a mentorship and development program aimed at charting a path for journalists of color with the help of people in and out of the newsroom. (I was a 2020-2021 RJI fellow.)

Carew Grovum tested her project, called Upward, through the fellowship, and now is working with a new cohort with the support of the NC Local News Workshop at Elon University. The new group includes six early- to mid-career journalists, all based in North Carolina. Over the course of about six months, each journalist will work with their direct manager and an executive level sponsor from within their organization as well as their Upward group and Carew Grovum.

“It’s a team sport,” said Carew Grovum, founder of the media consultancy Kimbap Media. “The executive sponsor is out there with a machete making the path easier. The day-to-day manager is navigating the course. The fellow is trying to get from point a to point b. The rest of the team is there to pick them up and shove them along the way to get to their goal.”

NC Local News Workshop’s Shannan Bowen knows Carew Grovum through Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media and the two brainstormed what Upward might look like as a statewide project.

RELATED TRAINING: Apply by Sept. 9, 2022, for Poynter’s 2023 Leadership Academy for Women in Media.

“Some organizations offer mentorship programs, but there’s something a little different when it comes from outside your organization,” Bowen said.

There’s more freedom to talk about similar challenges at different newsrooms, and there’s an opportunity for future leaders to build early connections. In order to keep the program free to the journalists and their employers, Carew Grovum is looking for funding opportunities and partners for next year and beyond.

The goal, she said, is for journalists of color to know the path ahead of them in their current newsroom, salary bumps and all, so that when national newsrooms beckon, the people who’d like to stay actually can.


This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter devoted to the telling stories of local journalists

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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