We work in the culture business. Our individual and collective efforts have the ability to mold the world outside of our industry’s walls. The stories we report, music we air, programs we produce, and events, webinars and experiences we offer to our audiences all add to the narrative of our multifaceted, multi-lensed society. Our programming is like a tapestry; it offers perspectives carefully designed, woven and crafted with different materials, patterned and textured to make something uniquely appealing. Adding our own flair to the public media tapestry is a privilege we all share; we do not take this position lightly. Each of us brings ourselves, past and present, to our work in hopes of creating something meaningful that resonates throughout history.
It is critical we look at culture when thinking about who has access to public media. To do so, we must examine the definition of culture from an everyday perspective and within the workplace. Generally speaking, culture defines our way of life, such as our norms, values, attitudes, customs, vernacular, and the nuances in between, depending on the group in question. In a corporate setting, culture sets the tone for how business is conducted. It ripples across departments and hierarchy, denoting which behaviors are praised and which are deemed unacceptable. In both settings, culture maintains boundaries, whether physical or psychological, tangible or abstract.
Leadership controls the culture. We look to their vision as our main objective while measuring and observing their every move. This includes a litany of things: their public and private behavior; their decision-making processes; their character; what and who they value; where they divert time, attention and resources; the company they keep, and so much more. The list of attributes that encompass their leadership style is endless. The compilation of these traits creates a culture barometer, measuring the efficacy of the entity’s vision.
Much of my time as a consultant is spent untangling conversations, carefully pulling them apart and then piecing information together to get to the crux of an organization’s culture. In some instances, I have separate conversations with multiple people within an organization and find there is a disconnect between the information both parties share. When this happens, it becomes evident that the organization’s communication mechanisms are strained, signaling a potential culture problem. I ask questions about leadership and how supportive they are in creating a workplace environment where everyone receives what they need to be successful. Too often, I hear comments similar to these:
“When I have a question about a project, or have an idea that could help my department or organization, I’m told to stay in my lane.”
“My organization says it supports professional development, but all of my requests are denied. How do I grow if I’m not receiving the training I need?”
“I have glowing performance reviews and am told the department could not function without me, yet I always get passed up for the promotion and I’m always asked to train the new employee hired for the job.”
“My manager asked me for feedback about a project/situation. I came prepared and explained my concerns and solutions in detail. My feedback was never incorporated and my manager never gave me an explanation as to why.”
“My editor is afraid my story, that includes instances of racism, will upset our core audience and wants the story scrapped altogether.”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m not trusted to do the job I was hired to do.”
“The organization’s leadership continues to ignore recommendations from its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, or makes plans without asking for our ideas, insight or opinions.”
“I always have to jump through hoops to get the things I need/my department needs, while other employees/departments get things handed to them without question.”
“How people are promoted is secretive and exclusive.”