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Robyn Vinter, editor-in-chief at The Overtake on diversity, business growth and investigative journalism for millennials

Submitted by on September 10, 2019 – 9:59 am | 192 views

At Newsrewired this coming November, we will hear from four newsrooms that are hiring diverse talent because there are genuinely good business reasons to do so, like bolstering your reporting and being trusted by the public.

One of those practising this idea is Robyn Vinter, editor-in-chief, The Overtake, an investigative journalism website for millennials and Gen-Zers run by a team of reporters based in Leeds, Yorkshire.

In the first two years of running the publication, Vinter has built a part-time team of nine from scratch and created a platform which aspires to be “the opposite of the straight, white, middle-aged, middle-class mainstream media“.

Vinter spoke to Journalism.co.uk about The Overtake, the advantages of forming a diverse newsroom and what delegates can expect from hearing her speak at Newsrewired:

 

Q You are speaking on a Newsrewired panel discussing ‘building a diverse newsroom to regain audiences’ trust’. What is your connection to this topic?

I suppose you would call us a “diverse” newsroom in the sense we are a mix of genders, sexualities, races, religions and social backgrounds. The benefit of this for us is getting broad perspectives on issues and stopping us from being steered in the wrong direction.

Part of what people like about The Overtake as a publication is that we challenge some of the narratives coming out of other publications. People would see right through us if we did not embody the views we espouse.

In a more practical, tangible sense, a huge benefit has been when people join the team for the first time, they have said they feel welcome and able to get on with things without feeling like they have to pretend to be someone else, which is an asset in a growing team and something I am proud of.

 

Q What can Newsrewired delegates look forward to hearing about?

Considering we started with no money and no reputation, we are doing very well. We have been nominated for a couple of awards, we are slowly gaining recognition and brand awareness and we are growing financially too – something about our approach is clearly working.

I cannot name many publications that started in the last few years, that pay people and that have not had some kind of financial backing or investment that have found a way to work and I can only put that down to our single asset – our diverse team.

“Diversity does not mean watering down your voice or your message. A lot of publications talk about ‘diversity of thought’ as a type of diversity – we do not subscribe to that as we have a strong, deliberate editorial voice.”

 

Q What benefit comes from a diverse team?

It is easy for us to make decisions quickly because we all understand the organisation’s values and there is no conflict in the team about our direction or what is best for us, which is just as well as we do not have the resources to pull in different directions.

Our reporters have a lot of freedom and we trust each other, which means everyone is able to get on with their job in peace. On top of this, when people see, for example, a Romanian reporter or a trans reporter, people trust us with their stories and we have genuinely had lots of people say they would never talk to the media but will talk to us.

We know we are far from being the number one tip-off destination for most people since we are not very well-known. But to those who know us, they know that we can be trusted because our track record shows we report sensibly.

 

Q What does diversity mean to you?

It is not about being “diverse” in every aspect, it is about choosing how you want your team to differ and how you want to be the same, which is probably a reflection of the audience you want to reach.

We may look and sound different and have different backgrounds and experiences, but we share many of the same views and values, and we do not pretend otherwise.

I cannot see a situation where we would publish two contrasting opinion pieces, for example. That works for us because The Overtake is relatively ‘mainstream’ to millennials and Gen-Zers.

So far we have always made the right choices with the team. Considering how many incredibly talented young people there are out there – most of whom never got an opportunity in the media because of their background – I do not fear that we will ever run out of people with principles.

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