‘Post’ managing editor, Krissah Thompson, also tells students to share their passion for journalism
As the managing editor of diversity and inclusion for The Washington Post, Krissah Thompson’s goal for all newsrooms can be summed up in two words: “Think inclusively.”
That was her message to 86 college interns working for the Dow Jones News Fund this summer.
“I think of my role really rooted in coverage and also in jobs,” Thompson said.
She emphasized how diversity, diversity in sources and diversity in who is reporting the stories, helps to develop trust.
“Talking about diversity in sourcing goes to the heart of why diversity matters,” Thompson, the first Black woman to hold the title managing editor at The Post, said. “(Consumers) want to see their communities reflected in all their nuances. They’re looking at who is telling those stories. Do those folks reflect the community they are talking about?”
Thompson got her start working for the college newspaper at the University of Texas at Austin — The Daily Texan.
“I was in the basement of The Daily Texan like from day one,” she said. “I’m a big believer in college newspapers.”
She earned her master’s of journalism from the University of Maryland. She was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund business reporting intern for the Houston Chronicle, a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns, and wrote about civil rights and race as well as Michelle Obama, politics and culture.
She told the interns working in programs for editing, business reporting, data reporting and digital media that it is important for the people serving as gatekeepers to represent the diversity of their communities.
“We have to be really careful that we are not stuck in silos, that we are collaborating across fault lines,” she said. “Diversity comes in sourcing, but it also comes in our story idea generation meetings.”
Kaylee Pippins, a junior at Tarleton State University (Stephenville, Texas) and intern at the Azle News this summer, said, “Thompson spoke about diversifying the newsroom and subsequently seeking diverse sources and how that will provide a more inclusive, in depth, and rich media source for both the journalists and the readers. …[A] journalist’s job is to advocate for the reader, so seeking to represent the demographics of your reporting area is a priority.”
For Thompson, diversity was more than race. She also discussed diversity such as class, geography, sexual orientation, “all the things that make us who we are.”
“We all have different perspectives,” she said. “My experience is very different from some others.”
She said for leaders at The Post, that has really meant thinking about where reporters live and where they come from. Living inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway can create an inside-the-Beltway mentality, and, she said, there’s more happening in the world than what’s happening in D.C.
Further, there is sort of a growing awareness and awakening that reporters for The Post miss stories when the staff doesn’t include people who know other parts of the country.
Megan Menchaca, a spring graduate with a degree in journalism, said this point resonated with her.
“It’s very important to advocate for yourself. You have to be a good journalist, a good reporter. Have your facts and information.” Krissah Thompson
“As a UT-Austin graduate interning at The Houston Chronicle, I’m really inspired by her career path. It was great to hear that The Washington Post is aware and working to emphasize geographic diversity among their reporters and sources,” Menchaca said.
Abigail Russ, a junior in journalism and economics at the University of Maryland and summer intern with patch.com, agreed.
“I enjoyed hearing how The Post is dedicated to expanding diversity in gender identity, religious identity, socioeconomic status, geography as well as racial diversity,” Russ said.
To college students who might be entering the workforce in the next few years, Thompson pointed out that they might encounter some form of discrimination. She advised them to do their homework.
“It’s very important to advocate for yourself,” she said. “You have to be a good journalist, a good reporter. Have your facts and information.”
She said, it is experience that makes a young person stand out when applying for jobs. She said she expects them to have internships and work experience, so they can show what they’ve done beyond the essays required as part of the application.
She challenged students to tell the stories they feel called to tell whether that is in sports or business, where she got her start, or in the story of race in America, a “huge” story.
Along the way, Thompson also shared her passion for the profession.
“I really do feel journalism is a calling.”
The DJNF annual program, which provides pre-internship training in business and data reporting, digital media and editing, placed emerging journalists in more than 50 newsrooms, from community-based nonprofits to the nation’s top media companies.
The News Fund collaborated with the Emma Bowen Foundation and the Texas Press Association to train additional students from underrepresented communities. This year’s class includes five students selected by the foundation, four from TPA and three DJNF interns from 2020 who deferred due to the pandemic.
This year’s internship class is the most diverse and inclusive in the Fund’s 60 years, with 62% students of color, 75% women, 5% nonbinary/gender-nonconforming and several international and first-generation college students.
Full disclosure: Bradley Wilson is an associate professor at Midwestern State University. He co-directs the Center for Editing Excellence through the University of Texas sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund and Center for Editing Excellence.