Why Are Women Finally Getting Covered at Crain's Cleveland Business?

Friday, Crain's Cleveland Business' 24th Annual Forty Under 40 Awards were announced. Forty individuals under the age of 40 who have made significant contributions in the business or civic sectors will be honored at the Music Box Supper Club in a November ceremony.

As always, there are some familiar newsmakers on the list: Ken Babby, the owner of the Akron Rubber Ducks; Brandon Chrostowski, whom Scene has also celebrated for his "incredibly admirable" work at Edwin's Restaurant; Richey Piiparinen, who has become the region's go-to guy for demographic stats, and in fact runs the center for "Population Dynamics" at CSU.

There are also, for the second straight year, quite a few women.

Sixteen in fact, ranging from nonprofit professionals, (Sheri Dozier, who oversees economic development at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress); to academics, (CSU physics prof Xiang Li); to Crain's more traditional beats of corporate law and real estate (Carolyn Blake, of Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis, and Kristy Hull, of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, respectively).

On last year's roster, 18 women were honored. But in the four years prior, female representation was considerably lower — 11 in 2013, 13 in 2012, 10 in 2011, 11 in 2010 — so what changed? 

Answer: Among other things, Editor Elizabeth McIntyre. 

McIntyre joined Crain's in April, 2014, only three months after Crain's published a list of predictions for the upcoming year by 32 of the region's top business leaders. On that list, every single person was white, and only two of them were female. Joy Roller, then the President of Global Cleveland wrote a letter to the editor expressing her dismay. 

And to Crain's credit, the message seems to have been received.

Publisher John Campanelli, in his column the following week, offered a prediction of his own: Crain's would "do better" at diversity. 

"We pride ourselves on being the “premier source of business news in Northeast Ohio,” but we cannot hold that lofty title if we overlook large portions of our region. It's our obligation to cover all of Greater Cleveland's business community," Campanelli wrote. "I'm not just talking about women and minorities; I'm talking diverse age groups, differences in experience, viewpoint and culture. It means covering small businesses as well as large ones, for-profits and nonprofits, established companies and start-ups, in all relevant sectors." 

Campanelli wasn't just paying lip service. In April, he hired McIntyre, who had enjoyed an illustrious career at the Plain Dealer, and formed a Minority Advisory Board to "provide objective, constructive input on minority-based issues — a historic weakness in Crain's coverage and a recent flashpoint due to the lack of minority representation in a high-profile January feature." 

Under McIntyre's leadership, there has been a renewed commitment to covering both women and people of color in Cleveland's business community. And you can see the difference in lists like the 40 Under 40.  

McIntyre was working on a tight print deadline Friday, but she did respond to a few of Scene's questions via email. She praised the leadership and focus of Campanelli and said that the publication is always trying to improve. 

"I believe we’ve made some strides in better reflecting the diversity of the Northeast Ohio business community in what we do in print and online – and that’s thanks mainly to the work of our staff and the input from our Business Diversity Council," she wrote.

In July, the American Society of News Editors released a newsroom census which showed that of the 32,900 full-time journalists working at daily newspapers, only about 12 percent are people of color. Sixty-three percent have a woman among their top three editors.  

If McIntyre and Crain's teach us anything, it's that having diversity on staff, and indeed, in positions of leadership, can meaningfully change the direction and priorities of a publication. And making inclusion a consistent editorial priority can yield positive results, even if they're only small steps in the right direction.  

When Scene spoke with New Republic Senior Editor Jamil Smith in April, he talked about strategies for news organizations to be more inclusive (in this instance with respect to covering people of color): 

Too much when people think about covering race they think about covering racism and incidents of racism. There’s a lot of attention paid to police violence, paid to poverty, paid to income inequality and overt acts of bigotry. There’s so much about the experience of being a person of color that isn’t reflected in newspapers. When I say that, it’s so much of the positive experience. Especially in a city like Cleveland, it’s frankly… it’s as segregated as people want it to be. If you’re a person of privilege or a certain socio-economic level, it’s an easy city if you want to only be around people that look like you or think like you or are the same socio-economic background as you. It’s a pretty easy thing to do in Cleveland. Every community has people that struggle, and I don’t want to brand certain communities. Growing up in Shaker, you had people who took an interest in a diversified city and you had people who took no interest. In order for journalists to reflect the real character of the city, they have to get in the neighborhoods, they have to make allies, they have to convey that they are going to reflect those specific people’s experiences that they’re covering.