SEJ Stands With Environmental Journalists of Color Affected by Systemic Racism

March 9, 2023 — SEJ’s mission is to strengthen the quality, reach and viability of journalism across all media to advance public understanding of environmental issues.

Public understanding must consider the historic context of colonialism, motivated in part by global efforts to extract natural resources, enslave people for profit and subjugate some groups, especially Black people, Indigenous people and other People of Color. This historic system of colonization, extraction and subjugation is still felt today in many contexts, including excessive use of force, insufficient investigation into crimes and disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change affecting some BIPOC.

Ongoing systemic discrimination has prevented coverage of communities of color and excluded journalists of color from representation and advancement in the field of environmental journalism. Addressing these interrelated factors, increasing diversity in the ranks of journalism and supporting those reporting on environmental racism is central to SEJ’s mission.

In line with the SEJ board of directors’ 2022 DEI trainings, the U.S. and many other nations are deeply rooted in white supremacy culture, which has been keenly felt by journalists of color among SEJ’s membership. We ask that all SEJ members extend a hand and offer support to their colleagues facing racism in society and within the industry. Furthermore, SEJ reaffirms its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Whether it be through direct allyship with journalists of color and affinity groups, such as the Uproot Project, or covering climate impacts and solutions through an intersectional lens, our hope is that we can develop an even stronger sense of belonging and community among all environmental journalists.

Diversity/Justice Reporting Guides

Check out more resources for allies (to come).

In June 2020, SEJ’s board of directors issued a statement titled “SEJ Stands With Journalists of Color Speaking Out About Systemic Racism.” The statement included steps SEJ planned on taking to further its diversity, equity and inclusivity initiatives. In an effort to be transparent about those steps, we are updating those commitments here.

As a primary commitment, SEJ will update this statement along with the list of accomplishments and commitments at the beginning of each calendar year.


What SEJ has done since its June 2020 statement:

WHAT WE SAID in June 2020:
“Under the leadership of SEJ Board President Meera Subramanian, SEJ established a board-level Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee to recommit to our work in making this organization equitable and inclusive. SEJ's forthcoming strategic plan, which incorporates lessons learned from [ED and DEI Committee Chair] participation in a year-long DEI training [from Saathi Impact], will integrate commitments to racial equity across all aspects of our work.”

WHAT WE DID from June 2020 – today:

  • SEJ’s Strategic Plan, approved in 2020, makes “Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within SEJ and across news media, including reporting on environmental injustice” one of its core values, and commits SEJ to integrating equity into all of its activities.
  • SEJ’s board commissioned Visions, Inc., to lead in-depth, three-part DEI workshops for the entire board in 2021-2022.
  • SEJ’s board established a new officer position of Vice President, DEI, as part of an expanded Leadership Committee, to support integration and communication of DEI work across SEJ’s leadership.


  • SEJ will develop a DEI policy with committees and the assistance of Visions, Inc., which SEJ’s board has again commissioned to lead training and consult on DEI policy efforts for the board in 2023. Each SEJ committee will develop SMART goals supporting DEI in the area that the committee oversees that will be incorporated into the policy.

WHAT WE SAID in June 2020:
“We will continue to foster the SEJ-Diversity listserv, a forum for SEJ members to collaborate, network and share resources and support. We are working to expand our volunteer mentor program to provide greater capacity and support for mentoring new and mid-career environmental journalists of color. And we are focusing on recruiting SEJ members of color for leadership positions.”

WHAT WE DID from June 2020 – today:

  • SEJ began collecting demographic data via its membership application and renewals in 2020. Based on prior estimates and data collected since 2020, SEJ estimates that the share of members identifying as non-white has more than doubled in the last four years.
  • To increase transparency and help hold itself accountable for its DEI goals, the SEJ board voted in January 2023 to begin publishing demographic information on members’ race/ethnicity and gender identity, in aggregate summary form on the public SEJ website, annually starting in 2023.
  • SEJ board and members passed a bylaws revision that made it easier for all students to become and stay members of SEJ; this effort helps increase equity by removing restrictions that were having a disproportionate effect on students from under-represented and marginalized communities.
  • Because its restrictive membership bylaws have had a disproportionate effect on journalists of color, in order to promote equitable participation in its activities, SEJ staff extended member rates and member discounts for all of its programs to members of the Uproot Project (environmental journalists of color) and members of all affinity journalism groups (e.g., NAJA, NAHJ, NABJ, AAJA, SAJA, NLGJA, TransJournalists Association, etc.).
  • SEJ partnered with the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing to launch a new national fellowship program for early-to-mid career journalists covering science, health and environment. In 2021 and 2022, SEJ led recruitment of a diverse candidate pool, leading to more than 50% of the selected fellows being journalists of color.
  • The mentor program upgraded its intake platform to facilitate better matching and follow-up with mentors and mentees.


  • Add more capacity to bolster the all-volunteer mentor program and explore mentoring partnerships with the Uproot Project and other affinity groups.
  • Set concrete membership goals.

WHAT WE SAID in June 2020:
“SEJ member volunteers will continue to organize plenaries, workshops, tracks, tours and panels on environmental racism and justice at our annual conference and other events. Dedicated funding for racially and ethnically diverse speakers and fellows will support their participation and inclusion. And we will do more to ensure that our events are equitable and reflect these diverse perspectives.”

WHAT WE DID from June 2020 – today:

  • SEJ recruited two journalists of color to co-chair #SEJ2022 in Houston, which was thematically focused on environmental justice and environmental racism.
  • #SEJ2022 was SEJ’s most diverse conference ever:
    • 29% of attendees identified as non-white and 52% identified as female or non-binary (out of 572 registrants)
    • 33% of speakers/organizers identified as non-white and 46% as female or non-binary (out of 185 speakers/organizers)
  • In 2022 and 2023, SEJ partnered with the Uproot Project to offer #SEJ2022 and #SEJ2023 Diversity Travel Fellowships. Fifty-six (56) journalists from traditionally under-represented groups were offered fellowships worth up to $2,500 each to cover costs of attending the #SEJ2022 and #SEJ2023 conferences, representing more than $100,000 committed by SEJ to these travel fellowships.
  • In 2023, SEJ invited members of the Uproot Project to submit panel proposals for #SEJ2023 (previously, only SEJ members were permitted to submit panels). This is leading to many Uproot members leading and speaking at #SEJ2023.
  • SEJ prioritizes its speaker travel funds for journalists from groups traditionally under-represented at the SEJ conference. To support this effort, SEJ developed a speaker travel assistance request form to track allocation of speaker funds.
  • SEJ revamped its panel proposal form to ask proposers to describe how their proposal will help support diversity, equity and inclusion in environmental journalism.


  • To date, roughly one-third of moderators/organizers for #SEJ2023 in Boise are journalists of color.
  • The agenda for #SEJ2023 in Boise includes numerous events about reporting on environmental racism and justice.

WHAT WE SAID in June 2020:
“We will seek to be supportive allies to affinity groups, like the Uproot Project. For the last two years, we've waived fees or offered discounted member rates to members of affinity organizations, including the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association, among others. We will seek additional opportunities to partner that are welcomed by, and don't compete with, our colleagues of color.”

WHAT WE DID from June 2020 – today:

  • SEJ offers member rates and members discounts for all of its programs to members of the Uproot Project (environmental journalists of color) and members of all affinity journalism groups.
  • SEJ worked with the Uproot Project to convene its members – many of whom are also SEJ members – at #SEJ2022 in Houston and #SEJ2023 in Boise. SEJ also partnered with Uproot on Diversity Travel Fellowships that helped many of its members attend these events, with funds raised by SEJ, and invited Uproot members to submit panel proposals for #SEJ2023.


  • SEJ board members will seek to attend, exhibit or organize panels at select affinity group conferences to build long-term relationships with members of these groups and determine how to best engage their members on topics related to environmental journalism, as well as find ways to support and collaborate with them.
  • Partner with affinity groups on statements and advocacy, including but not limited to refinement of demographic data collected for awards entries. SEJ will offer a total of five free basic conference registrations to affinity-group members. Affinity groups will choose who gets these free registrations.

WHAT WE SAID in June 2020:
“More than 70% of our last round of story grants were awarded for projects about or from under-represented communities. Going forward, we will work with our foundation partners to expand and deepen our efforts to support journalists and communities of color through our grant-making and program design.”

WHAT WE DID from June 2020 – to today:

  • Starting in 2020, points are awarded in the Fund for Environmental Journalism judging rubric for stories focused on under-represented communities or diverse perspectives on environmental communities.
  • From 2021 – 2022, 100% of FEJ funds were awarded to projects on under-represented communities or representing diverse perspectives.
  • Large FEJ grants to SEJ partners at High Country News, The Guardian and IJNR support more and better coverage of Indigenous issues, environmental and climate justice, and diverse perspectives on conservation, as well as fellowships and training on covering environmental racism.


  • In 2023, SEJ plans to award at least $50,000 in small story grants on environmental health and justice stories.
  • SEJ is in the early stages of developing a program that will seek to help support community-based environmental news outlets, including possible support for fundraising.


See also: SEJ's Diverse Perspectives, where we post useful websites, events & opportunities, news, views and more.

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