INMA Elevate Scholar: Charnae Harris of McClatchy

By Paula Felps

INMA

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

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On October 29, INMA and Google News Initiative (GNI) awarded 50 news media professionals around the world with its debut Elevate Scholarship. This series features these impressive media professionals who are shaping our industry. 

As a senior UX research manager for McClatchy, Charnae Harris is in a unique position to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between media and technology.

She uses her research skills to explore local news subscriber motivation, the impact of storytelling features on perceived news trustworthiness, and has identified multiple usability improvements to McClatchy's story pages, subscriber platform, and account management system. Her findings shape news products and strategy across 30 newsrooms and have helped the company better connect with its audience. 

“Charnae works at the intersection of media and technology, both fields where Black women are woefully underrepresented,” said Abby Reimer, senior manager, UX & strategic projects at McClatchy. “As a researcher, she is able to empathise and connect with a diverse group of readers. She has been instrumental in launching and scaling our Voice of the Customer programme, which has allowed us to understand our subscribers and readers like never before.”

Charnae Harris will lead McClatchy's effort to understand the motivations, habits, and needs of racially diverse local news consumers.
Charnae Harris will lead McClatchy's effort to understand the motivations, habits, and needs of racially diverse local news consumers.

Understanding those readers — particularly readers who have historically been underserved — is one of Harris’ primary objectives. Once she understands them, she can begin finding ways to meet their needs and create a better user experience for them. 

“I aspire to provide the best user experience that bridges both the user research and news industry in such a way that it brings empathy, understanding, and advocacy for community voices,” she said. “I would like to gain more knowledge through digital media initiatives to better understand how we might achieve the goals of our news industry and meet community needs.”   

Although Harris doesn’t have a traditional journalism background, Reimer identified her as a powerful resource for the industry: “I know how quickly our industry can discount people who have not had ‘traditional newsroom experience.’ Charnae has learned a lot about the world of media and journalism, but I think the world of journalism can learn a lot from her.”

As 2021 begins, McClatchy’s team is focused on identifying and implementing strategies that will help them acquire and retain digital subscribers who are currently underrepresented in the company’s subscriber base.

“Charnae will lead the effort to understand the motivations, habits, and needs of racially diverse local news consumers between the ages of 24 and 55,” Reimer said. “Without her, this work would not be possible.”

About Paula Felps

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