A White Paper on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at The Kitchn

This white paper traces the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at the digital publication The Kitchn across 2021 to offer insights and learnings for the food media industry at large.

If you want a downloadable PDF of this document, please enter your email and we'll send it directly to your inbox.

Table of Contents

What is a White Paper?

Some context on white papers and Studio ATAO's approach 

Overview of this White Paper

About The Kitchn, our key stakeholders, and areas of focus

Area of Focus: People

Initiative 1: Increase diversity in talent pipeline

Initiative 2: Implement DEI training for managers

Initiative 3: Support employee-led resource groups​

Initiative 4: Evaluate performance review process

Area of Focus: Content

Initiative 5: Publish public Diversity Statement

Initiative 6: Site-wide recipes audit, create new recipe guidelines and advisory committees

Initiative 7: Clarify pitch guidelines

Conclusion

 

What is a White Paper?

 

The term white paper came from British politics, where legislators would write reports analyzing details of specific issues, often offering certain policy suggestions and rationale for support.

 

Today, white papers are common in business-to-business (B2B) educational content; in particular, we see them as a tool to present long-term research in a structured way. Compared to other content, white papers are generally expected to be far more heavily researched, longer, and more academic in tone.

 

At Studio ATAO, we aim to use white papers to provide extremely detailed action plans that supplement broader call-to-actions from our toolkits such as “Hire talented, experienced people of color in decision-making roles” (Toolkit for Recognizing, Disrupting, and Preventing Tokenism).

 

This white paper and others like it are meant to break down what exactly needs to occur to start moving towards the end goal, while offering a realistic understanding of the challenges and considerations along the way. This way, we can proactively counteract the any fear of taking action due to "not knowing where to start."

We are not compensated by any publications included in these white papers to avoid conflicts of interest. We believe that by sharing information transparently, we can collectively develop higher industry standards for equitable representation that benefits everyone.

 

These white papers are 100% self-funded so if you do learn from this work, we hope you will consider supporting us financially so we can continue to pay our team equitably for their work. You can do so by joining our Patreon community as a monthly donor, or by making a one-time gift via GiveLively.

Overview of this White Paper

 

We began the process of this white paper with Apartment Therapy Media (ATM) & The Kitchn (Kitchn) in January 2021. Apartment Therapy Media is an independently owned media company started in 2001 by interior designer Maxwell Ryan that has “grown to become a leading source of design inspiration and tips for real people looking for real-life decor solutions.” ATM currently has over 20 million in their community across the website, newsletter, and social media platforms and produces 125+ pieces of original content every week.

 

The Kitchn was launched in 2005 by interior designer Maxwell Ryan. Kitchn is made by a nationally distributed staff of home cooks, reaching a mass audience with a personal voice. Kitchn guides women as they plan, shop, cook and organize to support busy, fulfilling lives. The brand’s content covers the 360-degree food cycle, from meal planning to grocery shopping to cooking to the family table.The Kitchn publishes hundreds of new pieces of content monthly across its website and social channels, with a monthly readership of over 20 million (with another 4.5 million via social channels).

 

Together across its three editorial brands, Apartment Therapy Media employs 133 full-time employees.

 

Our main stakeholders at Apartment Therapy Media are:

  • Maggie Lansdale (Director of People Operations, Apartment Therapy Media)

  • Faith Durand (Editor in Chief, The Kitchn)

  • Phil Vuong (CFO, Apartment Therapy Media)

 

At the beginning of the year, 7 main initiatives were identified by ATM and Kitchn for the scope of this whitepaper, 4 within people (internal to ATM/Kitchn) and 3 within content (specific to Kitchn):

People

1. Launch new DEI recruitment strategy at Apartment Therapy Media

  • Internal Recruiting Processes

  • Hiring Updates

  • Freelancers / Contributors 

2. Creation and rollout of a Manager Handbook + Management Training

3. Cultivate safe channels for communication and employee engagement within ATM

4. Launch an improved performance review framework to ensure transparency of feedback and opportunities for growth

Content

5. Release of a Diversity Statement from both Apartment Therapy and Kitchn

6. Initiate a site-wide recipes audit for Kitchn, and create guidelines to ensure consistency of future content  

  • Content

  • Art & Creative

  • Audience Growth

7. Publish transparent Pitch Guidelines for Kitchn

Area of Focus: People

 

Initiative #1

Increase pipeline diversity across recruiting, hiring, and freelance contributors

 

Hiring has been a major focus across the company over the course of the year, both to backfill open roles as well as adding new positions. ATM’s DEI recruiting strategy is new for People Ops this year, with the goals being:

 

  • Building a more diverse pipeline of candidates

  • Maintaining an equitable recruiting process

  • Creating guardrails against potential bias in the process

 

The first step of the Recruitment Strategy was to create and execute a new interview training for everyone involved in hiring. The training focused on how to use data-driven metrics specific to the job description to evaluate candidates, versus vague traits like likability or organizational fit.  Several new processes were also introduced to interviewers: scorecards to avoid inconsistencies in interview questions and reduce bias; the STAR method to focus on behavioral questions and uncover relevant skills from past work experience; and asking interviews to tie their candidate feedback to ATM’s stated company values (which include humility, integrity, and being mission-aligned).

 

In early 2021, ATM rolled out Greenhouse, an Applicant Tracking System, to monitor interview progress via scorecards, and offer candidates a platform to provide anonymous feedback. In Q1, ATM focused on removing potentially biased and/or vague language on job postings (e.g., “ninja” or “rockstar”) as well as potentially arbitrary requirements (e.g., a Bachelor’s degree). ATM also created a job description (JD) template that explains what a JD should entail, and best practices for inclusive language while removing potentially arbitrary qualifications. For example, instead of requiring a Bachelor’s Degree for all positions, the JD template encourages using the language “Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent work experience.”

 

 In Q2-Q3, ATM’s People Operations Team also adapted a variation of the Rooney Rule across all hiring processes. For each position, no offer can be made until at least one candidate that meets our diversity criteria for the role is interviewed by the hiring manager (the second step of the overall process). Diversity criteria can vary from team to team; examples include historically marginalized race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or gender. 

dubois-rooney-0310-21.webp

This policy has been well-received. Most hiring managers were already independently pushing for diversity throughout their hiring processes, and the People Operations Team has committed substantial personnel resources to recruit diverse candidates, much of which has been conducted through active LinkedIn sourcing and DEI-focused job boards. No delays in hiring have resulted from the policy. 

 

ATM has also considered the use of third-party vendors such as Jopwell to source candidates from underrepresented groups. However, because ATM has been seeing success with its existing DEI sourcing efforts and resources, they have decided to hold off for the time being. If the company continues to grow at its current pace, they will re-evaluate their budget and need for outside vendors. 

This graph, created by FiveThirtyEight, follows the effect that the Rooney Rule had on the NFL's coach diversity. Author Cynthia Dubois writes: "...the Rooney Rule’s success is likely due in part to the fact that the NFL has been able to closely enforce it."

Notable upcoming plans within ATM’s overall DEI Recruiting Strategy for 2022 include:

 

  1. Building a new team of Values Interviewers, composed of volunteers across the company to panel-interview new candidates against company values, especially for candidates interviewing for particularly homogeneous teams. The ATM Executive Team is finalizing the company’s values, especially with regards to “Inclusion,” and will be brainstorming how to roll out this initiative in 2022. 

  2. Establishing metrics to track during each stage of the interview process (e.g., percentage of diverse candidates at each stage of recruitment, percentage of job offers extended to diverse candidates, retention/turnover rates of diverse employees).

Internal Referral Processes 

 

In Q1, ATM began conversations to reevaluate its internal candidate referral process and referral bonus, as it has historically not been a source of diverse candidates. ATM has since decided to remove neither the referral process nor the referral bonus. This is because the company has become increasingly diverse with the recent uptick in new hires, and People Operations does not want to close off the opportunity (or incentivization) of diverse candidates making referrals. 

 

In the upcoming months, the People Operations Team will track whether candidate referral processes contribute to its diversity efforts. For now, they have documented and shared the referral process for all staff, encouraging employees to refer candidates of diverse backgrounds and establishing a limit to the number of referrals any employee can make. 

 

ATM has also formalized its internal team transfer process, which is now available to all employees in the company’s internal library. Internal transfers can occur in conjunction with employees’ performance reviews, discussed under Initiative #4 - Performance Reviews.

 

Hiring Updates 

 

While personnel turnover in Q1-Q3 has diverted resources and delayed other initiatives, ATM and Kitchn have used these hiring processes as opportunities to diversify the team, leading to several more women of color across the organization. That being said, it continues to be difficult to source diverse candidates for other positions, particularly in the Lifestyle sector and mid-level editorial. Kitchn leadership has been discussing different ways to address this, such as which positions are suitable for hiring someone “upwards,” who has slightly less experience and needs more training, versus which roles need more turnkey candidates. In particular, Kitchn leadership worries about hiring a more junior, diverse candidate to a very senior, visible role and not setting the new hire up appropriately to succeed.

 

This past summer, ATM also participated in the America on Tech internship program, which aims to “decrease the racial wealth gap by increasing equitable pathways for underestimated students into degrees and/or careers in technology.” Two BIPOC interns worked in ATM’s Engineering for 6 weeks, and were joined by 2-4 other interns who worked with the Audience Growth and Commerce teams. Whether interns continue as employees depends on both timing and hiring needs; for example, some interns are rising seniors and returning to school after the internship. Some interns do move first into part-time roles; the two Commerce interns are currently writing as freelancers for ATM. 

 

Freelancers

 

On the Kitchn side, editorial leadership is looking to better understand the composition of its freelancer pool and track how this changes over time. Each vertical’s editors have now compiled a list of freelancers on a spreadsheet, to be evaluated on a quarterly basis with the EIC, various editors, and third-party party DEI consultant Janice Asare. 


Assigning Editors have also been asked to personally reach out to diverse freelancers to solicit pitches, and Kitchn leadership is also working on an Assigning Guide to support this sourcing process. This Assigning Guide (1-2 pages) highlights both values and logistical processes to guide current and future editors. For example, how diverse an editor’s writing pool should be, as well as the standard process to onboard freelance contributors to Kitchn’s internal systems. This final guide is anticipated to go live later in 2022.

Initiative #2

Implement updated manager handbooks and trainings

ATM’s People Operations team created and rolled out a new Manager Handbook for all management levels in Q1, and a second time in Q2. The goal of the handbook was to ensure all managers are equipped with the same foundation of understanding when it comes to standard hiring, onboarding, day-to-day management, and the company policies and procedures that support their direct reports. By ensuring all managers are equally trained on these topics, their team members will have a more equitable experience across different departments. 

 

The Manager Handbook was complemented by LifeLabs’ Manager Core 1 training in Q2. The People Operations Team is now brainstorming and considering how to ensure that people use the resources they have been given via his Handbook in their daily work and how to role model best practices, to truly ensure that team members will have a more equitable experience across different departments. 

 

ATM also held several DEI trainings over 2021, including topics such as:

  • Allyship & Advocacy: How to Support Employees of Marginalized Backgrounds

  • How to Support Black Employees in Your Workplace

  • Microaggressions Training


Attendance is optional for these trainings, and roughly 75% of staff participated in the workshops. In addition to the workshops, ATM also held a session called Real Talk, inspired by Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk, where three BIPOC employees shared their personal experiences with race and privilege in a candid conversation moderated by a third-party DEI consultant, Janice Asare.

Initiative #3

Support employee-led channels of engagement

 

Change Initiative (CI) is a BIPOC-run, volunteer employee resource group (ERG) that was founded in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and 2020’s uprisings, and has become both a healing ground and an incubator for diversity initiatives at ATM. In June, CI celebrated its one-year anniversary. CI’s mission statement is:

To create and uphold a diverse and inclusive environment at Apartment Therapy Media for employees and our audience alike. This will be achieved by building up the awareness, visibility and understanding of those in the BIPOC community. This group will enforce the accountability of stakeholders in charge, and others, to maintain a respectful and dignified community among our staff, contributors, and our readers.

As one member described the Change Initiative, its purpose is to implement “checks and balances” on the company and the Executive Council. CI also worked with ATM leadership to draft and edit other statements put out from the company during major holidays such as MLK Jr. Day, as well as planning programming for heritage months such as Black History Month.

 

There are currently ~20 CI members spanning across departments. Any BIPOC staff member of ATM who can commit to CI’s cadence of meetings (1 hour bi-weekly) for at least 6 months is allowed to join. In addition to the main group, there are 3 subcommittees: 

  • Content

  • Revenue

  • Community (which includes Recruiting and People Ops)

 

Each sub-committee is headed by a CI member, but these are open to allies and Executive Council members whose work is directly related to the subcommittee. Each subcommittee hosts regular check-ins outside of the main CI group, and reports back to the main group. (Read more about how the CI Content subcommittee works with the Kitchn Editorial team in the Content section.)

 

From the start, the CI has worked closely with third-party DEI consultant Janice Asare to guide their work. Asare also hosts regular “safe space” sessions for all of ATM to discuss larger social issues and current events. In Q1, 2 safe space sessions were held; one immediately following the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and one after the anti-Asian Atlanta murders. In these sessions, attendees can also voice feedback on organizational changes they want Asare to communicate to management.

 

On July 1, People Ops allocated a formal budget to compensate the CI. Now CI Lead(s), Subcommittee Facilitators (for each of the three sub-committees), and the CI Secretary in the form of a monthly bonus. CI leadership positions run for 6-month terms, and can be renewed if desired; each leader reports to People Ops. The rest of the CI members are volunteers.

 

Members of the CI have also been instrumental in holding People Ops and Leadership accountable for the company’s shortcomings in regards to DEI. After several photo shoots for a heritage month recipe did not portray the cultural accuracy of a featured recipe, members of the CI, Editorial leadership, People Ops, and third-party DEI consultant Janice Asare worked together to create a Heritage Month Playbook (see more under Initiative #6).

Initiative #4

Evaluate and improve performance review process

 

At the end of Q2, ATM launched a new performance review process and implemented CultureAmp, an employee experience platform used to track employee engagement, retention, and performance. All employees conducted their Mid-Year Reviews on CultureAmp to prime and prepare them for the Annual Review process in Q4, during which all employees will receive and conduct a 360 Review. In the Mid-Year Review, managers reviewed all of their direct reports, and were also evaluated by at least one of their own direct reports. 

 

In the 360 Review in Q4, all employees received feedback from their managers, direct reports, as well as peers. This was the first time 360 reviews were conducted at ATM, and People Ops recognized that employees have different levels of comfort giving and receiving candid feedback. This process will be iterated upon in 2022 to provide a framework for an equitable review experience for everyone.

 

CultureAmp also allows managers to conduct and record notes from 1:1 meetings with their direct reports. All managers were made aware of these features via the Manager Trainings, which included a session on “How to Conduct Effective 1:1’s.” As of today, 50% of the company has begun to use CultureAmp for their check-ins. 

 

ATM also uses Pluto to capture anonymous demographic data and feedback of employee sentiments over time. Employees respond to mostly (if not entirely) the same questions in each survey, such that the People Operations Team can track how their responses shift over time. The results from Pluto are then used to evaluate the successes (or failures) of ATM’s people-driven initiatives. 

 

In May 2021, ATM launched one survey, with ~75% participation, that yielded mostly unsurprising results. Overall, People Operations saw that employees were seeing the value of the company’s DEI efforts and had gained more clarity around certain policies (e.g., identifying and reporting misconduct). However, two major opportunities for improvement became apparent: 

 

  • The most common type of misconduct witnessed by employees at ATM is microaggressions. The People Operations Team will be planning two refresher workshops on microaggressions with their third-party DEI consultant, Janice Asare, to work through real-life scenarios reported in Pluto. One will be open to all employees; another for managers only. 

  • Many people anonymously flagged the need for more resources and guidance around growth and career development for BIPOC employees.

 

In October 2021, ATM launched another Pluto survey. This time, everyone was incentivized to participate with a cash prize of $50 per person if at least 90% of the entire company finished the survey. The results of this survey were then used by the People Ops team to reflect on their work in 2021 and plan for 2022. In particular, People Ops noted that while employees at ATM were appreciative of the different DEI initiatives in place, many were not fully aware of what exactly was being done behind-the-scenes, and aimed to resolve that with more frequent and clearer company-wide communication in 2022. In particular, People Ops noted it was important for messaging around DEI initiatives to come from every department of ATM, not just People Ops, so it would be perceived as the company-wide priority that it is.

 

Additional Notes

 

While not explicitly DEI-related, ATM also made several notable changes to their benefits and employee policies in an effort to cultivate a more inclusive working environment, such as:

  • Unlimited sick leave and bereavement leave (with a caveat that absences of longer than 3 weeks may require some formal written confirmation)

  • Flexible paid time off (PTO) with a 15 day minimum per calendar year

  • $10K lifetime reimbursement for family planning services, such as egg freezing, adoption, or surrogacy. (In particular, egg freezing came up multiple times in employee surveys regarding benefits.)

Area of Focus: Content

 

Initiative #5

Publish public diversity statement
Carolyn-Suzuki-DiversityDay-WP.jpg

In Q1-Q2, the People Operations team, Change Initiative, and Kitchn leadership worked together to write a joint Diversity Statement for ATM that was added to the company’s bylaws and the company’s homepage. Currently, this Diversity Statement is live, but ATM and Kitchn are still finding the right place for it to be linked on the respective homepages, as The Kitchn was redesigned entirely in Q3 and ATM is now undergoing a redesign as well.

Illustration by Carolyn Suzuki

Initiative #6

Clarify recipe standards, audit full recipe archive, and create guidelines for future recipes (especially for those with cultural context)

 

The Kitchn currently has an archive of roughly 6,000 recipes existing on the site, dating back to its inception in 2005. A major goal for 2021 was to create a formal process to audit older content and recipes on the site, to ensure that all existing content is written in line with Kitchn’s current and emerging standards of inclusivity. Because previous recipes have been developed by a large number of freelancers, alongside a smaller Kitchn in-house team, Kitchn acknowledges there is a range of experience and professionalism within its backlog of recipes. Prior to 2018, Kitchn also did not cross-test recipes in-house as it does now.

 

To start the recipe audit process, Kitchn editors wrote a Mission Statement (see below) on how recipes will be evaluated. 

A Kitchn recipe is, first and foremost, delicious and gratifying to cook. It is clear, accessible, and reliable. 
 
A Kitchn recipe is mindful of how home cooks budget, shop, and cater to many needs. It’s tested in a home kitchen to make sure that it will work for you. It teaches recipes and their stories from the point of view of an expert, whether that authority comes through direct experience or via carefully researched and credited sources. 
 
A Kitchn recipe teaches without assuming its audience is homogenous.

Some of the major sources of discussion for the audit process were:

 

1. Process for correction. Once flagged, should there be a record of the change? If a recipe or article is deleted (or a new one reissued and redirected to), should there be a record that it once existed?

 

There is not yet a standardized method of flagging recipes that may need to be reviewed. To date, most recipes flagged for retesting, fact-checking, or sensitivity updates have been a result of the recipe writer or editor themselves proactively asking for review, or the regular, systemic process of updating recipes for effective search engine optimization (SEO).

 

2. Soliciting opinions for change. Who should be asked to weigh in on potentially tricky situations? How can this be done in a respectful way that does not tokenize staff members or put them in uncomfortable situations?

 

For example, a personal essay with a recipe that related to a Jewish holiday included an illustration with a cheeseburger. Jewish Kitchn staffers were polled on if this was potentially offensive to be run as a lead post on the homepage, with no clear consensus. As a result, another article (with no ties to the holiday) was run as a lead post.

 

3. Demarcation of accessible yet respectful. Kitchn sees its brand as an educational voice for those who are interested in food and cooking, and not necessarily professionally. As one editor described, “teaching always has some element of translating." As such, which terms should be explained further, or not?

 

Additionally, Kitchn does want to meet its audience where they are and “not leave people behind." What does it mean to offer a starting point for all audiences for each recipe?

 

Advisory Board

 

Through Q2-Q3, Kitchn identified a third-party Advisory Board that could define and start the review process. Some of the considerations during the scouting process included demographic background; familiarity with food media, recipes, and Kitchn; and experience with sensitivity reading. The final group is composed of Ozoz Sokoh, Cathy Erway, Alex Tewfik. This Advisory Board has begun reviewing the initial set of Kitchn recipes.

ozoz.jpeg

Ozoz Sokoh

cathy.jpeg

Cathy Erway

alex.png

Alex Tewfik

Recipes Committee

 

Kitchn editorial has also held an initial “all-hands” meeting for everyone involved in recipes, including part-time staff and perma-lancers, to discuss their different needs and what expectations would be for the audit. This is the most diverse part of Kitchn, and Kitchn leadership is interested in continuing to congregate this group into 2022. One idea is to host monthly “learning seminars” where someone external to the company is invited to talk about their expertise and be part of a Q&A. However, instead of this just being about “knowledge acquisition,” the Kitchn team wants to find ways to work with these experts in a more long-term capacity. 

 

Right now, Kitchn leadership anticipates at least another 4-5 meetings with this group in an effort to formalize a Best Practices / Standards document for the Recipes section by early February. That document would primarily be forward-facing, but also be used to evaluate the existing recipe archive.

 

Corresponding Guides & Resources

 

In addition to the Best Practices / Standards for Recipes Guide, Kitchn editors have also begun work on several other guides, including:

 

  • DEI Style Guide. Kitchn’s current Style Guide includes a section of “banned words,” or terms that go against Kitchn’s values (e.g., those invoking a values judgment of one’s health choices or mental health). As a result of internal conversations throughout 2020 and into Q2 2021, Kitchn’s Editorial leadership began to brainstorm the contents for a DEI Style Guide to supplement the existing Style Guide and act as a toolkit for editors, writers, and freelancers. Inspirations for this DEI Style Guide include DiversityStyleGuide.com and Buzzfeed’s Style Guide. Kitchn’s Executive Editor and senior editors will be making this public in Q2 2022.

 

  • Assigning Guide. A guide to support Assigning Editors in sourcing and onboarding a diverse roster of freelance writers. (Read more about this guide under Initiative #1 - Freelancers.)

 

  • Art, Video, Social Process. A guide detailing how Editorial content is then translated, reformatted, recreated, etc. into other mediums, such as photos, video, and social media. 

 

  • Heritage Month Playbook. Many employees across departments (Editorial, Art, Social, etc.) had started conversations around how to best approach heritage months — specifically how to ensure that these stories are not told in a tokenizing fashion.

Screen Shot 2022-04-14 at 3.18.22 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-04-14 at 3.17.22 PM.png

In Q4, Kitchn leadership worked closely with the Change Initiative’s Content subcommittee as well as their part-time staff members and permalancers to create a living Playbook that smoothes out the planning process for each heritage month. (Prior to this, Kitchn Editorial had already been working with the CI Content subcommittee on heritage month-related scenarios, such as asking for guidance on the nomenclature of Hispanic versus Latinx Heritage Month; and bringing on a Guest Editor for Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month.)

 

This document laid out which heritage months Kitchn will recognize through its content, standardized the types of content packages Kitchn would produce per heritage month, and created frameworks to guide the content creation process. It was important to Kitchn leadership that all content packages were equitable, regardless of how many people on the Editorial team specifically identified with a specific heritage month.

 

The Playbook standardized various processes and best practices around determining the people involved in each heritage month package (e.g., a special guest editor, freelance photographers and stylists) and expectations around the content. The Playbook also defines when and how Kitchn will source representative on-screen talent and crew on its set, as well as what the purview is for outside contributors per package. 

 

For example, any guest editors must be on set (in person or via Zoom) during the photoshoot for the package, and the work is not considered complete until the editor is satisfied. The guest editor also can see photo selections before the final delivery, so they can dictate the visual aesthetic of the overall package. 

 

In addition to the Advisory Board, Kitchn leadership has been working with CI’s Content subcommittee since Q1 to find a sustainable way to integrate them into Kitchn’s content creation and review process. Subcommittee members initially volunteered to review all headlines and headnotes before pieces go live, but with the volume of content from the Kitchn, this felt infeasible to leadership. The Kitchn leadership team and People Ops are still working on the right balance of leveraging the CI team throughout the standard editorial process, without overworking either the CI or editorial teams. 

 

Next year, Kitchn is also moving to a quarterly - versus monthly - planning process. Editors are excited to have more lead time, especially for larger packages, because it will allow the team to plan more proactively, incorporate DEI values from the get-go, and catch any missteps or potential issues sooner in the process. 

 

Art & Creative Process

 

The Art team at ATM and Kitchn is also working on Art-specific DEI Style Guide that clarify and define ATM’s brand aesthetic, paying special attention to inclusive aesthetic representations of BIPOC and other marginalized cultures. The Kitchn’s leadership has indicated strengthening the communication and collaboration between the Editorial and Art team is a point of focus for 2022, especially given a recent conflict that emerged from the photoshoot for Filipinx Heritage Month. In wake of that conflict, both the Editorial and Art teams attended a training on the white gaze, which was found to be useful since many were unfamiliar with that terminology and how to identify it in the workplace and their work. 

 

The Editorial team also collectively brainstormed how to address the pain points that arose during the heritage month conflict, and decided to bring on a full-time, third-party consultant to support the production process for cultural pieces. After the Editorial team brainstorm focused on addressing the pain points in Kitchn’s cultural packages, it became clear that the team needed a full-time resource to oversee the production of content. At the end of 2021, Kitchn hired Hali Bey Ramdene as a consultant for the entirety of 2022. Bey will oversee the cultural heritage month packages, hold office hours for both editorial and creative staff, and lead in defining a process for diverse and inclusive cultural content at Kitchn.

 

Audience Growth

 

In light of the multiple crises experienced in 2020-2021, Kitchn’s Audience Growth team developed a Social Handbook: Emergencies Guidelines to support social media team members during highly sensitive and/or uncertain current events and news cycles. 

 

The Handbook lays out the stakeholders across social content, art, and the Kitchn website that will need to be involved in decisions to pause, edit, and/or delete any content. This includes those who should be part of the feedback phase, as well as who makes the ultimate decision. 

 

The Handbook also lists the timeline, criteria, and conditions for removing content and comments (versus editing it), as well as official statements approved by Kitchn leadership that social members can use in certain situations (e.g., when deleting/moderating comments, when correcting previously incorrect information or errors, or when responding to DMs from audience members who do not support a brand or advertiser Kitchn works with.)

Initiative #7

Publish clear pitch guidelines

 

As part of the effort to include a wider range of freelancers, Kitchn leadership is working on a new set of publicly available pitch guidelines for freelancers. This would include details are:

  • Assigning editors of each column and/or type of story

  • Pitch structure (or what should be included in the pitch email)

  • Writing experience required (if any)

  • Number of pitches that will be accepted per column or type of story

  • Upcoming media packages (e.g., Kitchn has an upcoming package about rice)

  • Expected length for different stories

  • Rates for different stories

 

Kitchn leadership is still in the process of re-writing and publishing these guidelines, with the new Executive Editor as the main point person. Some difficulties in this process have been aligning Kitchn rates with that of ATM’s other publications to ensure consistency, as well as offering enough flexibility in rates to allow for certain expansions of contributor scope (e.g., a particular piece that requires far more research and interviews, recipes that require multiple rounds of testing).

 

As mentioned under Initiative #1 - Freelancers, the pitch guidelines are particularly important because Kitchn leadership has also been encouraging assigning editors to consider pitches from those who may not consider themselves “writers” or have limited or no food-specific bylines. Some columns have been identified as particularly well-suited for new food writers; for example, product reviews and personal essays

 

Updated pitch guidelines are scheduled to be published at the end of Q1 2022.

Conclusion

 

Through this white paper, we tracked The Kitchn and Apartment Therapy Media's implementation of 7 DEI initiatives over the course of 2021. Our ultimate goal is to provide a sample roadmap for other food media companies interested in leading similar initiatives, by recording benchmarks, processes, and systems utilized by The Kitchn and Apartment Therapy Media in the last year. In doing so, we hope this resource can minimize some of the activation energy needed to foster a more inclusive, equitable industry for BIPOC and otherwise marginalized talent. The initiatives we tracked in this white paper were:

  • Increasing diversity in ATM's talent pipeline 

  • Implementing manager trainings and reference guides specifically around DEI

  • Creating support structures for an equitable Employee Resource Group (ERG) experience

  • Writing and publishing a public diversity statement for all of ATM's brands

  • Finalizing mission statement for Kitchn's recipes, creating advisory committees to review past recipes, advise on upcoming ones, and solidifying practices for culturally sensitive content

  • Clarifying pitch guidelines for a better freelancer experience

We are grateful to our stakeholders and interviewees at The Kitchn and Apartment Therapy Media for their time and energy throughout 2021.

This free resource has been a labor of love and the result of tremendous emotional labor from all parties involved. If you found this white paper valuable, please consider backing us on Patreon or sending us a donation via GiveLively.

If you would like to reference this during industry conversations or conferences please provide a backlink to the original webpage to provide full context and credit Studio ATAO. Our mission is to shift the trajectory of food media representation by laying out different guiding principles for our industry.

If you are a company or organization interested in working with us to host workshops and/or trainings on the topics covered in this initiative, you can learn more about doing that here and reach out to us at hello@studioatao.org.

Help us continue this work

If you've learned from our events and resources, we kindly ask you to consider supporting us by becoming a monthly patron or with a one-time donation. We thank you for your generosity!

All contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Never miss an event

Subscribe for the latest information on ticket releases, new content, our regular newsletters & more!