Johnita Due

“As a news and sports organization, it’s very important that every voice be heard. Editorially you can’t connect with your viewers unless you’re telling stories or producing content that resonates with them,” says Due, who spearheaded the creation of the Black Professionals at Turner Task Force and led a team of employees from across Turner and WarnerMedia to create recommendations to improve the retention and advancement of African American employees throughout the company. In her day job, Due serves as the lead attorney for CNN Digital and has shepherded some of its most distinctive and award-winning content, including an investigation around singer James Brown’s death titled “The Circus Singer and The Godfather of South.”

What does your company/organization do to ensure all employees feel included?
As a news and sports organization, it’s very important that every voice be heard. Editorially you can’t connect with your viewers unless you’re telling stories or producing content that resonates with them. We are trying to nurture a culture of openness so employees feel they can lend their voices to our editorial direction. We also create a culture of accessibility to senior leadership where employees can ask questions and share their views about our content, workplace and our business at town halls, employee breakfasts, and other venues.

How can diversity be better incorporated into the recruiting process?
We have worked hard to institutionalize our commitment to diversity and inclusion in the recruiting process. Our talent acquisition team is a major partner in our efforts. We have invested in creating innovative sourcing strategies where we don’t wait until the annual conventions of minority journalism and industry organizations to focus on recruiting. We have created our own recruiting events in cities across the country to gain exposure to candidates in training settings. Our talent acquisition team works in partnership with our diversity and inclusion team to not only identify diverse candidates and shepherd their candidacies for existing positions but to track candidates and nurture relationships until we are able to create opportunities or opportunities arise.

Can you share a successful diversity program at your company or one you’ve observed at another company or organization?
To maximize the return on our investment in recruiting, we recently piloted a new program to connect candidates we have identified in a full-day experience at CNN with hiring managers across teams, departments, shows and networks. We have every indication that this program will result in a significant number of new hires.

What questions is the industry not yet asking in its efforts to be more diverse and inclusive that it should be?
Most industry diversity and inclusion efforts focus on recruiting. It is essential that we also focus on retention and advancement. If we don’t, morale will suffer and we won’t get the full benefit of a diverse workforce which we need to help us grow our business through increased ratings and revenue. We need to ask as an industry how do we ensure that companies are not letting talented employees slip through the cracks or slip out the door because the haven’t been developed to reach their fullest potentials. We will have a renewed focus on development in our organization which will impact retention and advancement.

Which current television show/s best embrace diversity?
Hands down — “Jane the Virgin,” which recently finished its 5 year-run. I actually wrote an opinion piece for about this very topic. In the piece, I said “I recognized early on that the true genius of the show was its ability to bring a Latino family into our living rooms and onto our streaming devices in a way that marks a coming of age for this country and American television.” I concluded that: “What ‘Jane the Virgin’ and its writers and actors have done is show us that Latino culture is a part of who we are in this country and on television. We can all see ourselves in each other if we just open our eyes and hearts and try. The show may be ending, but there’s no looking back.”

This was less than a week before the domestic terrorism mass shooting targeting immigrants in El Paso, Texas. This country needs more shows like “Jane the Virgin” to show us who we are and who we want to be as a country.

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