Some days, being a reporter can feel like you’re screaming into a crowded room trying to get people to notice to something, but no one looks up.
Thankfully, today isn’t one of those days.
Every holiday season, we ask IndyStar readers to contribute to our Season for Sharing campaign, which seeks to harness the power of local journalism and charitable giving to improve the lives of Central Indiana youth. And you’ve answered the call — for the second year in a row, you’ve given over $100,000 in support of that cause.
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I’ve filled several roles in my nearly five years with IndyStar, covering everything from crime and public safety to nonprofits and philanthropy. Since 2018, I’ve also served on the IndyStar Community Engagement/Our Children committee, a collection of folks from the newsroom and from our Gannett LOCALiQ team whose mission is to serve young Hoosiers. We also oversee Season for Sharing.
What formerly was a general fundraising campaign to support youth services has become more focused in its mission. In 2019, we launched a successful partnership with the Matthew L. Tully Memorial Fund to raise money in support of early childhood education centers and programming.
After seeing an enthusiastic response from readers last year, it made sense to revisit that model and partner with another organization to encourage more targeted giving. And when protests erupted downtown and drew focus to the deep hurt and earned mistrust felt by so many of our Black and brown neighbors, our newsroom felt compelled to act.
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The focus of this year’s Season for Sharing campaign was addressing the systemic inequities that disproportionately affect Black and brown youth. All funds raised this year will be donated to the African American Legacy Fund of Indianapolis, and we’ll work together to ensure this money reaches groups that may otherwise be overlooked or excluded from traditional grant cycles. Priority will be given to organizations with majority-Black leadership or that serve mostly Black youth and families.
As of Jan. 22, along with a generous $25,000 match from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, IndyStar readers gave just under $116,000 to support these efforts. And I’m excited to share that our team is also making a donation, rounding up the final total to $150,000.
That’s $150,000 that will be reinvested in the Central Indiana community. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you.
Our team will now work with the grant-making board at the African American Legacy Fund to evaluate the dozens of applications and award funding. Our goal is to make those decisions in the coming months and mobilize that funding by early spring.
“The outpouring of support for this year’s Season for Sharing is all the more meaningful given our shared goal of dismantling racism and supporting Black led institutions that often do unheralded work in our community,” said Marshawn Wolley, chair of the AALFI grants committee. “We are looking forward to using the $150,000 gift from the community to empower organizations that make us collectively stronger as a city.”
Like many organizations, IndyStar made a promise following last summer’s unrest that we would strive to be more inclusive and highlight the diversity of our city. By making this vow, Season for Sharing literally forced IndyStar to put our money where our mouth is.
Because more coverage is simply not enough. Increasing diversity just for the sake of it — to check a box and gain social currency — is a disservice to our newsroom and to our readers. Without meaningful action, those promises we made are merely platitudes.
Our job at IndyStar affords us a responsibility that cannot be ignored, and we need to do better.
We’ve made some progress. Last year, my colleagues Natalia Contreras and Daniela Franco Brown launched La Estrella, a Spanish-language newsletter generating original content and translating some of the day’s top news for our Hispanic and Latino readers. Members of the newsroom diversity committee partnered with Indy Pride to educate our reporters on LGBTQ+ issues and we’ve implemented several style changes that we hope will make our reporting more inclusive and remove implicitly biased language. In June 2021, we’ll add a journalist to our team whose role will be dedicated to covering issues of race and equity, thanks to a new partnership with Report for America.
“I can’t stress enough that these efforts as I see it, are just a starting point,” said Katrice Hardy, IndyStar’s executive editor. “No news organization can honestly say that it is committed to its community if it doesn’t wholeheartedly reflect its community in its staffing and in all areas of coverage.”
“But honestly, in this case, probably even more important is our mission to help our community solve its most pressing problems, to help us all better engage with and learn from each other and to give back to this very community we seek to serve and to make a better place to live.”
In our work toward achieving equity, we must be intentional in our focus and our investments. Because the reality is that when one of us succeeds, we don’t all reap the benefits of that success. High tides do not lift all boats. And an even playing field means nothing to the players who don’t have cleats.
Thank you, IndyStar readers, for supporting this mission. We still have a lot of work to do — let’s keep going.
Holly Hays covers social services for IndyStar. She is a member of the Our Children Committee and chairs the newsroom’s Diversity Committee. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.