Poynter newsletter introduces the Truth-tellers

Three journalists answer journalists of color’s career questions

More stories from Amira Lunderville

We pick three
May 5, 2021


Truth-tellers seek to answer those tough questions journalists of color have in their workplace like institutional racism and bias, Leah Donnella said.

As a global leader in journalism, the Poynter Institute is known for training classes to news postings, ranging in topics for all things journalism, its website said.

According to the website, “it is the world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens.”

One of Poynter’s newsletters, The Collective, began publishing on April 28, the website said. A section of the newsletter will be career advice given by the Truth-tellers.

The Truth-tellers is a council made up of three professionals with different backgrounds and experiences in journalism: Leah Donnella, Jan Larson and Corey Rose. 

Jan Larson, a professor of journalism and chair of the department of communication and journalism at UW-Eau Claire, has been associated with Poynter in all capacities.

“I worked with Poynter on a fellowship as a graduate student, went back as a professional journalist and now I’m helping out with this new project — (Truth-tellers),” Larson said.

Truth-tellers is a place for journalists of color and allies, Larson said. It seeks to answer those tough questions journalists of color have in their workplace, like institutional racism and bias.

It’s to be used as a resource and guide to let journalists of color know they’re not alone, Larson said.

“Sometimes (journalists of color) are the only one in the newsroom — they don’t have anyone to talk to or compare themselves to,” Larson said. “They may not have a safe space for them to ask the tough questions and know someone who is with them and sees them.”

Leah Donnella, editor of the Code Switch podcast for NPR, said it creates a community space for people to be able to talk about some of the things that affect journalists of color and also ask questions.

“We look at different work scenarios or life scenarios that might have a particular effect on people in those positions,” Donnella said.  

The overall goal of the Truth-tellers is to give journalists of color a more specific community space, Donnella said. There are tons of forums and general spaces where journalists can talk about their work, but this space is specifically focused on journalists of color.

Although the advice is geared toward journalists of color, there will be some questions and life lessons that will apply to a broader group of people, Donnella said.

“We wanted to keep it really specific so both the people asking questions and those who are answering the questions know what they’re talking about,” she said. “This way we can get deeper into the issues specific to journalists of color.”

The Truth-tellers are not professional counselors, but they are journalists, Larson said. They want to help people think through their questions about the journalism landscape.

For example, the first question dealt with someone waiting for a promotion for a long period of time, who gave details that prompted the Truth-tellers to advise moving on from that job, Larson said.  

“The one thing I love and hate about advice is that usually, when there’s a good question, there’s no easy answer,” Donnella said.

The Truth-tellers are learning along the way, too, Donnella said.

“We’re learning something every time we are thinking through these questions,” she said. “We’re hoping to be challenged by them.”

Going forward, the Truth-tellers will be answering questions submitted through The Collective. To submit a question, go here.

The hope is to get as many journalists of color and allies involved as possible, Donnella said.

“My hope going forward is people will really engage and enjoy the advice,” Donnella said. “Hopefully they will find something useful and then start participating themselves.”

To subscribe to The Collective, go here.

To learn more about each individual Truth-teller, read this article by Doris Truong, the director of training and diversity at Poynter.

Lunderville can be reached at [email protected].