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Barbara Rodriguez

In 2017 I attended an IRE conference where I watched keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones call on the journalism industry to do better in hiring investigative journalists of color. I then watched at the same conference as predominantly white-led investigative teams received IRE reporting award after IRE reporting award.

I’m running for the IRE Board of Directors because I have expected more from this organization ever since. I care deeply about IRE, and I want to be part of the collaborative process that holds it accountable to its commitment of increasing the ranks of investigative journalists of color through training and networking opportunities.

I also want IRE to step up more publicly in the years ahead to better address other growing inequities in our industry for early and mid-career journalists of color. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated newsroom burnout and laid bare the ongoing failures of too many newsrooms that do not reflect the communities they’re supposed to cover.

In the process, the journalism industry is losing talent at an alarming rate. Journalists of color often do not see themselves enough among newsroom staff, and by extension, in management. IRE has the power to call on newsrooms to create more inclusive workplaces that move away from viewing burnout as an individual problem but one that has been maintained by newsrooms.

If elected to the board, I have several areas I’d like to prioritize:

- I believe strongly that IRE must continue to make its conferences and related programming affordable to journalists. I have spent out-of-pocket costs on registration, travel and lodging to every in-person IRE conference since 2015, and it has been a difficult financial investment. I know that is still a privilege.

- I’d like to address what role IRE should play in diversifying investigative teams within newsrooms. (I believe strongly in the power of local investigative journalism as a former collaborator of the Local Matters newsletter.) That includes finding concrete mechanisms for holding newsrooms accountable on their diversity and inclusivity hiring goals, including an audit of the racial and gender makeup of investigative teams.

- IRE should consider developing industry guidelines for how newsrooms can train future editors of color, and find ways to collaborate with groups to expand such training at conferences and through other programming. Newsrooms must be more intentional in how they’re creating a pipeline for journalists of color to move into management positions that can play a critical role in developing more inclusive coverage.

It is also important for newsrooms to continuously train their long-term managers and new managers — many of whom are still predominantly white — on how to better work with journalists of different gender, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

I believe industry leaders like IRE must find ways to develop long-term solutions to these issues and others. It should not shy away from addressing the root causes of the inequities we see in newsroom coverage and hiring, and I commit to working respectfully to figure out best practices for the work ahead.


Nominations

Bethany Barnes, Tampa Bay Times: I’m nominating Barbara Rodriguez for the IRE Board. She’s generous with her immense talent and IRE has long been better for it. IRE needs leaders committed to making the industry more inclusive and who have a plan — that’s Barbara. She also understands the power of local journalism and its challenges. I saw this working with Barbara to highlight that work in the Local Matters newsletter. She’s the real deal.
Ana Ley, The Virginian-Pilot: I’m nominating Barbara Rodriguez for a seat on the IRE Board. From her Iowa politics coverage at the AP to her deep dives on American statehouses for The 19th, Barbara has long championed investigative journalism and lifted others around her to pursue aggressive and enlightening watchdog work. Her generosity has inspired me and many other WOC to find our place in a field that has historically shut us out.

Candidate Q & A

Current position
  • Statehouses reporter, The 19th

Prior experience

  • Health care and state government reporter, The Des Moines Register (2018-2020)
  • Reporter, The Associated Press, (2008-2018)

IRE experience

  • IRE member since 2015
  • Helped screen IRE awards and served on the member services committee (2017)
  • IRE public engagement committee (2018-2019); helped screen potential nominees for the Don Bolles Medal
  • Participated in several IRE conference workshops over several years; participated in mentorship program (2020)
  • Contributed to the IRE Journal (2021)

Expertise

  • National board member, National Association of Hispanic Journalists (2015-2016)
  • Former collaborator of the Local Matters newsletter (2018-2019)
  • Bylaws committee, National Association of Hispanic Journalists (2020)
  • Mentor, Latinas in Journalism Mentorship Program (2021)
Issues I would like to address
  • Prioritizing the affordability of conferences and other events programming
  • Tracking and measuring the diversity of newsroom investigative teams
  • Expanding training opportunities for editors of color
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