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What ProPublica Is Doing About Diversity in 2020

Here is our annual report on the breakdown of our staff and how we’re working to create a more diverse news organization and inclusive journalism community.

Dion MBD, special to ProPublica

ProPublica is committed to increasing the diversity of our workplace as well as of the journalism community more broadly, and each year we publish a report of what we’re doing about it. This is the report for 2020; here are our posts from 2019, 2018, and 2017.

Our Commitment

We believe that it is crucial to fill our newsroom with people from a broad range of backgrounds, ages and perspectives. We are committed to recruiting and retaining people from communities that have long been underrepresented, not only in journalism, but particularly in investigative journalism. That includes African Americans, Latinos, other people of color, women, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.

ProPublica doubled in size from 2017 to 2019. We opened a D.C. office last year and continued to expand this year. As we launched a new investigative unit focusing on Texas in partnership with The Texas Tribune, and our Local Reporting Network continues to grow, we reaffirm our commitment to a robust and thoughtful hiring process, and also to focus on our own organization, ensuring that our initiatives are well balanced between external pipeline-building efforts and internal retention and culture-enhancing programs.

Breakdown of Our Staff

As with last year, we tracked candidates through the application and interview process. Out of 36 jobs posted in 2019, 52% percent of the candidates we interviewed self-identified as people of color. Of those we hired, 48% self-identified as people of color, and two-thirds were women.

Compared with last year, the percentage of all ProPublica staff members who identified as non-white increased to 37% from 36%. In editorial positions, staff members who identified as non-white increased to 37% from 31%. (Roughly 38% of Americans are non-white.)

For the second year in a row, more women than men work at ProPublica. In editorial positions, women represented 54% of the staff.

As we’ve said since 2015, part of our commitment to diversity means being transparent about our own numbers. This year, we are adding a new category of reporting and are breaking out our managers.

Note: Charts are slightly different compared with last year as we have modified the questionnaire. Last year, for gender, the options were female, male, transgender and don’t wish to specify. This year, for gender, the options are female, male, do not wish to specify and other (with the option to be more specific). We also added Middle Eastern/Arab American and South Asian/Indian American to our race and ethnicity options. Data is as of March 2020.

Our Ongoing Efforts

We think about our efforts in four ways: building the pipeline (for us, and for all of investigative journalism), recruiting talent, improving our hiring process and retention.

Building the Pipeline

  • Diversity Scholarships: ProPublica has offered a scholarship program to help student journalists attend conferences, coordinated by Lena Groeger, Caroline Chen and Abby Ivory-Ganja. This is the fifth year of the program, and we awarded 20 scholarships of $750 each.

  • Emerging Reporters Program: This program provides stipends and mentorship to five students who have demonstrated financial need, encouraging applications from people with diverse backgrounds. It includes $9,000 and trips to ProPublica’s New York office and a journalism conference. This is the program’s fifth year, coordinated by Katie Zavadski. Check out our most recent class and find out more about the program.

  • High School Investigative Reporting Unit: An investigative reporting curriculum was developed by Jessica Huseman and piloted in Newark, New Jersey, with the help of ProPublica volunteers. The curriculum has been finalized and shared with more than 400 teachers across the United States, 120 of whom were using it as part of their instruction in 2020.

  • Outreach Trips: A team coordinates visits by ProPublica journalists to schools across the country, especially historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions with journalism programs. Contact Topher Sanders if you’d like us to visit your school once classes resume.

  • Chicago External Mentorships: A ProPublica Illinois initiative hosts quarterly mentorship sessions with The Real Chi, a Chicago-based learning newsroom powered by young reporters and editors ages 18 to 25 that cover the city’s West and South Sides. Previous workshops included sessions about public records, fact checking and audio storytelling.

  • ONA (Online News Association) Diversity Breakfast: An annual breakfast at the ONA conference, facilitated by ProPublica with organizers including Ruth Baron and Karim Doumar, has paired managing editors, executive editors and other leading professionals in the industry with journalists from historically underrepresented communities. If the conference goes forward this year, it will be our sixth year hosting the breakfast.


  • Scouting Suggestions Form: We maintain an internal system for ProPublica employees to nominate great candidates for jobs and keep track of top candidates from past searches.

  • Affinity Conferences: Our conference team coordinates and encourages ProPublica presence, participation and events at affinity conferences like NAHJ, NABJ, AAJA, NAJA and NLGJA.

  • Local Reporting Network outreach: In an effort to increase diversity within our Local Reporting Network, staff organized webinars for members of NABJ, NAHJ, Ida B. Wells Society and the JOC Slack. Beena Raghavendran and Claire Perlman led an effort to contact editors of newsrooms with a high proportion of journalists of color on staff and made personal contact with journalists of color whose work we admire. LRN staff also made changes to our application to ensure journalists have experience and sensitivity dealing with the communities they are seeking to cover through our partnership.


  • Updated Job Applications: In 2019, we updated our job applications to better reflect our diversity goals. We also amended question formats to make it easier for us to find out how applicants heard about the job openings.

  • Application Process Data Analysis: We gather and analyze data about our job candidates to better understand who’s making it to the interview stage and look at the makeup of our overall applicant pool.

  • Rooney Rule: We require that hiring managers interview at least one person of color for every position.


  • Parental Leave: In November 2019, ProPublica increased paid parental leave from 8 to 10 weeks.

  • Affinity Conferences: For many years, ProPublica paid for travel and attendance at one conference per year for employees’ professional development. In March 2019, ProPublica decided to encourage staff to attend and speak at various affinity conferences such as NAHJ, NABJ, AAJA, NAJA and NLGJA, and this program will continue when such conferences are held, notwithstanding general budgetary constraints.

  • ProPublica Peer Partnership Program: This is an internal program organized by Jodi Cohen that matches ProPublicans with a mentor or peer partner to meet each other, develop new skills and have someone to turn to for help navigating workplace or career questions.

Interested in Working Here?

Here is our jobs page, where we post new full-time positions, and here’s our fellowships page. At the bottom of either page, you can sign up to be automatically notified of when we have a job or fellowship available.

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Portrait of Caroline Chen

Caroline Chen

Caroline Chen covers health care for ProPublica. She is currently reporting on the coronavirus pandemic.

Portrait of Liz Sharp

Liz Sharp

Liz Sharp is ProPublica’s human resources director.

Portrait of Richard Tofel

Richard Tofel

Richard Tofel was the founding general manager of ProPublica from 2007-2012, and served as president from January 2013-September 2021.

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