Why ROI-NJ decided to run a list of the top “People of Color”
ROI-NJ, a business news publication in New Jersey that launched in 2017, produced a power list of the top People of Color in the state, which is close to becoming a majority-minority state.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. By the end of the first day, Monday, it was one of the 40 most read stories in the site’s history. By end of Day 2, it was in the Top 10.
“The notes of appreciation for doing the list are pouring in, too,” said editor Tom Bergeron of ROI-NJ.
Here’s a look at how the publication decided to put the list together and some of the major issues and decisions:
The staff debated what to call it for days.
“If we say minority or diversity, it’s too broad and we will look like we don’t know that LGBTQA and women belong to the category of D&I more broadly,” said managing editor Anjalee Khemlani, who compiled the information for the list. “But saying it’s a ‘People of Color’ list also makes people feel weird. Even until the very last day before we sent it to the printer, we were having a discussion about it.”
The rankings were discussed extensively. Should the top 10 or top 20 be ranked? Should they be ranked at all? The publication eventually decided to rank the top 10 and then list influencers in alphabetical order.
Khemlani also wrote a column that accompanied the list. While Bergeron wanted Khemlani to share her experience as an immigrant, she felt the column should focus on the people in the list.
“This was about the people who have achieved so much, and have paved the way for me to enjoy such a diverse state,” she said.
Khemlani said she also felt nervous about publishing the list given the sensitive environment that exists today. She mentally prepared for the worst and called the office several times Monday morning to see when it would be posted.
“That and people kept saying it was hard to do,” she said. “That’s why it had never been done before. But as one person said to me, we need these lists now so we won’t need them in the future.”
Bergeron said that Khemlani knows how minority communities have fought so hard to be viewed as being the same and wasn’t sure how being recognized just for ethnicity would be viewed.
“The reception of this inaugural list has exceeded anyone’s expectations,” said Khemlani. “I am incredibly proud of everyone who helped put the list together and thankful to our supporters in the business sector as well as the journalism community for their recognition of it and decision to amplify it on their own mediums.
“And a special thank you to my insiders, who steered me in the right direction. We’ve set the bar. We hope to repeat the success next year.”