Editor’s note: The following column is inspired by, and drawn from, a Q&A about NPPA’s new diversity and inclusion policy with PhotoShelter’s Allen Murabayashi.
At the January 2019 board of directors meeting, we passed a resolution adding inclusion and diversity guidelines to NPPA’s Policies and Procedures. The board understood that NPPA couldn't sit on the sidelines while the rest of the country had important conversations about these issues. We were compelled to look in the mirror, identify areas for improvement and start having those conversations as an association. Just talking about it or harping on the current state of affairs wouldn’t make change. We needed to do something. NPPA needed to lead.
Going forward, we’re asking our event and program chairs to strive to have their contest juries, faculties and speaker lineups include at least 50 percent women and nonbinary individuals, at least 30 percent people of color, people with nontraditional backgrounds and people of a variety of experience levels. I hope that all of our programs will reach these goals. But what’s most important is that inclusion is on our minds early in the planning stages, and then we do our best to convert thoughts into results. If we can do that, the experiences of our attendees and participants will only be enriched.
Inclusion lifts people up in the profession, enabling them to teach their wisdom and experience. It rubs off on young professionals and students following in their footsteps — they need to see people in positions of success whom they can identify with and relate to. It gives everyone an equal role in guiding our conversations about ethics, best practices and which work we should hold in the highest regard. Everybody deserves a seat at that table.
Inclusion is inseparable from ethics. Much of our Code of Ethics is about how we work or our work product, but there are equally important parts about how we treat people, including other journalists. The command to “defend the rights of access for all journalists” traditionally meant physical access to news scenes, but we should embrace that on a broader level. We can and should work to ensure that all journalists have access to professional opportunities.
The new Best of Photojournalism committee was formed last year with these goals in mind, and consequently we asked its members to assemble their judging panels in the spirit of this resolution we would later vote on. The board and I were thrilled with the judges this year, and I witnessed firsthand how diversity improves the deliberative process. It was proof that having a policy — even one “in the works” — can move the needle.
I’ve been on the board in some capacity for nine years. I can remember times when there were no people of color in the room and only a couple of women. Today there are fewer men than women on the board, and we are composed of about 25 percent people of color. We might have more young professionals on the board now than we have ever had in our history. In a relatively short time, our board has come to better represent our membership and the industry. But we can still do better. The new policy instructs everyone in NPPA’s leadership to recruit and encourage candidates for elected and volunteer positions with inclusion in mind.
Inclusion can be our strength in driving harassment out of our industry. I hope that by fostering an inclusive culture and professional environment within NPPA and at our events, we can neutralize the aspects of our industry’s culture that enable harassment.
Our efforts are broader: NPPA’s attorneys talk to any member who reaches out on sexual harassment issues. It’s also a topic at our Women in Visual Journalism conference. Our Judiciary Committee is underutilized. Last year we changed our reporting standards to make it easier for members to bring a complaint. Any NPPA member in good standing can file one, provided it is endorsed by three members in good standing and includes evidence and facts. Endorsers don’t need to have firsthand knowledge of the accusations, or evidence. They just need to find enough merit in the accusations to warrant adjudication. We actively encourage our members to make use of the process, but on average, it is used less than once a year.
Harassment can stall, divert or destroy a person’s career or life. We’re going to keep looking for other ways that we can support victims of harassment. It won’t be tolerated in NPPA, and it shouldn’t be tolerated in visual journalism. Diversity can and should be our strength in tackling this and many other issues, and our board was determined to lay the foundation to make that a reality. ■