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DEI Index Report 2023

Executive Summary

On an annual basis, the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) conducts an Index survey of its growing network of newsroom members to help assess the state of the nonprofit news sector. Its latest Index survey focused deeply on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), exploring whether and how DEI is reflected in the sector’s staffing and leadership, operations, engagement with underserved communities and revenue patterns. 

This report draws on survey responses from 348 INN members (a 90% response rate), supplemented by interviews with a subset of these members (n=16) to help us interpret and contextualize patterns in the survey data. As one of the most comprehensive surveys of nonprofit news organizations in North America, INN’s Index data may be treated as a rough approximation of the sector, though with the recognition that INN membership does not include all U.S. nonprofit news organizations.

The research findings indicate that there are promising signs of progress, including thoughtful and nuanced efforts underway to advance not just diversity, but also equity and inclusion. But there is still a great deal of work to be done to advance a more diverse, equitable and inclusive sector. Some of the key findings are highlighted below.


  • Racial and ethnic composition of the sector in 2022: The racial and ethnic composition of personnel in the nonprofit news sector is largely similar to the U.S. population. Based on available data on race and ethnicity in the news industry more broadly, the nonprofit news sector also appears to be more diverse than other parts of the industry. However, the degree of diversity is stronger at the staff level than at the leadership level in nonprofit news organizations. More than two-thirds of nonprofit outlets surveyed are white-led, which we define as organizations in which more than 50% of all executives and managers are white. This is roughly four times the number of outlets led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
  • Change in racial and ethnic diversity since 2020: Across the nonprofit news sector as a whole, personnel became more racially and ethnically diverse between 2020 and 2022. But this progress towards greater diversity was uneven across outlets and across organizational levels: About half of outlets reported an increase in BIPOC representation among their staff and contractors, while 28% reported an increase among executives and managers. Among majority-white outlets, which are the primary focus of efforts to push for greater DEI in the news industry, very similar proportions of outlets reported increased diversity at staff and leadership levels.
  • Gender composition of the sector in 2022: Women comprise about half of nonprofit news staff and an even higher proportion of executives and managers, surpassing the level of women’s representation in many other peer news organizations. Outlets reported that 1.6% of personnel identify as nonbinary or nonconforming, and 0.6% of individuals identify as transgender. The overall gender composition of nonprofit news personnel changed little between 2020 and 2022.

DEI practices:

  • Prevalence of specific practices: While a little over half of news outlets have set goals for improving diversity, far fewer have set goals for improving equity or inclusion, created a plan of action for achieving DEI goals or allocated resources and staff time for evaluating progress towards those goals. In addition, practices that can impact how a news organization operates — such as using a pay equity audit to inform changes in salaries or compensation policies, or implementing structural changes that strengthen the formal decision-making authority of staff of color or staff from other underrepresented groups — are not widespread, implemented by a minority of outlets. When it comes to assessing how communities of color or other historically marginalized or oppressed groups are represented in their coverage, two-thirds of outlets had used at least one of the methods listed in the survey. Asking members of these groups for feedback and conducting a content analysis were the most frequently cited methods.
  • Attention to the “how”: In interviews, INN members emphasized that how these practices are implemented is as important as what is implemented. They flagged questions they are wrestling with as they seek to integrate equity and inclusion in their internal policies and systems, including how to structure employee benefits, how the pay scale values different forms of expertise, and how to ensure transparency and equity in hiring and advancement processes.
  • Variation across news organizations: Engagement in DEI practices varied across organizations, which vary widely in their mission, history, size and ways of working. White-led outlets were less likely than BIPOC-led outlets to have undertaken many of the DEI practices explored in the survey. Smaller outlets were also less likely to engage in each of the DEI practices than their larger counterparts.


  • Foundation funding in 2022: Against a backdrop of recent research highlighting disparities in philanthropic support for BIPOC-led versus white-led organizations, we explored questions around equity in foundation funding for nonprofit news outlets. The answers were nuanced, requiring careful attention to differences across INN members and historical contextualization. BIPOC-led organizations — particularly state and local outlets and startup outlets — reported a higher median amount of foundation funding than white-led counterparts. But among national outlets, particularly more established organizations, the reverse pattern emerged, with white-led outlets reporting higher levels of funding. The flexibility of funding also varied, with BIPOC-led outlets less likely to receive general operating support from foundations than white-led outlets.
  • Attention to context: In interviews, INN members observed that any shift in foundation funding towards BIPOC-led and/or BIPOC-serving outlets is a relatively recent development traced in large part to funders’ increased focus on DEI since 2020. Moreover, organizations flagged the need for funders to bring a stronger equity lens to their grantmaking. They urged funders to acknowledge both historical patterns of oppression and inequity as well as current practices that perpetuate inequities, including racial bias in some funders’ decisions about whether, how much, and under what terms they are willing to fund BIPOC-led outlets vs. white-led outlets.
  • Individual giving in 2022: The data also confirmed that BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving outlets at the state and local level face challenges fundraising from individual donors. The median amount of individual giving reported by BIPOC-led outlets serving communities of color is less than half of the median among other state and local outlets.

This report aims to contribute to a much larger effort among news outlets, researchers, funders and others to illuminate, discuss, innovate and challenge the way DEI is, or is not, reflected in the news industry.

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