A message from EBF President & CEO Dr. Rahsaan Harris

A message from EBF President & CEO Dr. Rahsaan Harris

I have always believed that diversity—in the mailroom all the way up to the boardroom—breeds innovation. And innovation, of course, is essential for any business that wants to stay in business. Why? Diversity is new ideas. Diversity is looking at challenges with a range of perspectives and experiences to apply to solutions. Diversity is not just the right way to conduct business successfully—it is the only way.

This year, the Emma Bowen Foundation celebrates 30 years of building diverse media and technology companies by ensuring that more people of color are hired, retained and advanced to decision-making positions to influence the way media is expressed and business is conducted. For the last three decades, the foundation has operated with the belief that to fully impact the industry, we need to reach all essential functions and operations.

It’s been an honor, in my five years of serving as EBF’s president and CEO, to work toward and see the demonstrable impact EBF has had in creating a diverse pipeline of talent.

With a humble beginning of 10 interns in 1989, the Foundation continues to grow, placing 150 new fellows in 2019. We know our reach has drastically expanded; this year we received more than 5,500 applications. That’s more than seven times the number we received in 2016. We had more than 1,200 applicants on the technology track, allowing us to fill a vital and growing need for the industry.

Today, there are more than 1,000 alumni, nearly two-thirds of whom work in media-related and technology companies.

Of course, EBF could not achieve these goals without our strategic partnerships, which have provided us with key opportunities to expand our reach. A grant by the Democracy Fund, for example, provided support to include nonprofit journalism in EBF’s scope. There are currently 31 fellows placed at nonprofit newsrooms across the country as a result of this grant. This new initiative serves as a bright spot at a time when local news is urgently struggling amid the collapse of the advertising-based revenue model.

In addition, support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has allowed us to place 27 Emma Bowen fellows into broadcast journalism positions at local TV stations in “Knight cities” (where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers) around the country. Other partnerships, such as the Dow Jones Fund pre-internship training in digital media and data journalism, and the NABLF Media Sales Academy fall training program, deepen the training for our fellows to develop their skill sets.

One important metric of success for EBF is increased hiring. This year, of 39 graduates who have found full-time employment, 73% have found employment in the media/technology industries. Fifty-four percent of this group have been hired by an EBF partner company.

This reflects an increasing trend toward EBF partner hires.

Our partner companies are paying closer attention, too. We’ve found an increase in usage of our Candidate Finder tool, which is a dynamic, digital database of Emma Bowen Foundation graduating college seniors that partner companies use to discover quality candidates. We also have plans to create an alumni directory similar to the Candidate Finder. This database will be accessible to alumni as a directory and to our partner companies for potential recruitment purposes.

I am grateful to be a part of this important work, and look forward to working closely with the companies and the bright, young, talented students who are on the front lines of making our shared vision a reality.