While minorities make up 30 percent of the total U.S. population
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2000), only 11.64 percent make up the
minority representation in newsrooms across the U.S., according
to a 2001 American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) report
Even though newsrooms hired more full-time minorities in 2000
than in the past 10 years, there was still a decrease in minority
employment from 11.85 percent in 1999 reported ASNE.
It has been ASNE’s goal to increase newsroom diversity
since it began tracking minority representation in 1978 when
newsroom minority representation was only four percent.
Diversity is encouraged in order to improve coverage. Editors
say that diversity improves awareness of what is going on in
the community, enhances credibility, especially among minorities
who historically have been less likely to believe what they
read, and broadens the pool of talented journalists newspapers
ASNE wants to increase the minority population in newsrooms
so that it reflects the nationwide minority population by 2025.
However, in light of recent statistics, the question was raised
as to whether this goal is realistic.
“The people who report for and edit the nation’s newspapers look
less like the people who make and read the news. If newspapers are a mirror that
a community holds up to itself, the reflection is mostly white,” said Bill
Dedman of the Boston Globe.
ASNE’s leadership see the 2001 figures as a disappointment and a challenge
given so that ASNE launched major initiatives to increase the flow of talented
minorities into the journalism pipeline in 2000.
ASNE President and Editor of the Austin American-Statesman,
Rich Oppel, said that the results of the 2001 Census were “simply not acceptable.”
Managing Editor at Newsday and Chair of the ANSE Diversity
Committee, Charlotte Hall, said “Now we must direct our energies to making newsrooms places
where journalists of color can flourish, where they feel welcome, where they
can build a rewarding career.”
A survey taken in 1999 by Workforce Characteristics Survey
gathered information about a newspaper’s workforce by surveying four different newspaper departments
most directly related to readership including advertising, circulation, marketing,
and news. One-hundred newspapers throughout the United States completed the Readership
Institute’s Impact Study.
According to this survey, only 21 percent of employees throughout
the four departments are minority. The news department carries
a low of 14 percent minority
to 27 percent in circulation and marketing departments. The highest percentage
of non-white men is in circulation, and the highest percentage of non-white
women is in marketing. At the supervisory level, only four percent comprise
with a range from two percent in the news department and six percent in marketing.
In the area of top administrative executives, minorities make up seven percent
of the workforce.
Why is minority representation declining in America’s newsrooms? Dillman
contends that a newspaper’s diversity is strongly affected by the company
that owns it.
Some of the top-ten newspaper chains–Knight-Ridder, Gannett, Mc-Clatchy,
and Advance are two-thirds of the way to parity with their communities,” said
According to a Boston Globe it is difficult to meet diversity
goals because of retention. In 2001, newspapers had a nationwide
net increase of only four
journalists. This is because newsrooms are having a hard time keeping their
Editors can cite good minority journalists who have been raided by a larger newspaper
or TV network, or who fled journalism for higher pay, opportunity for advancement,
or a climate where their views are heard,” the Globe analysis said.
The Globe Analysis also found that editors attribute a lack
of qualified journalists to the decrease in minority representation. “There are not enough minority
journalists coming out of smaller newspapers and journalism schools,” the
Globe Analysis said.
While there may be a lack of qualified minorities entering
the journalism pipeline, a study by the Grady College of
Journalism at the University
of Georgia found
that 27 percent of students studying journalism and mass communications
are minorities. The study said that this percentage is enough to double
journalists in about five years. However, minorities are choosing broadcasting
or public relations over print journalism.
A 2003 Knight Foundation report titled, “Does Your Newspaper Reflect Your
Community?,” provided surveys to 1,426 newspapers with a 65 percent response
rate. This report found that 372 American newspapers still have no people of
color deciding what news is. While these papers are not among the largest in
the nation, their combined daily circulation is 4,113,752 – a figure larger
than USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post combined.
The report also found that The Honolulu Advertiser carried a staff of 50
percent minority workforce. However, papers such as Mississippi’s The Greenwood
Commonwealth and Georgia’s The Union Recorder maintain all-white newsrooms.
This report maintained that the owner of the newspaper has
an impact on the level of ethnic diversity. The report
found the diversity index, which
of minorities as compared to the surrounding community, to be a reflection
of the newspaper. If a newspaper achieved an index of 100, its staff
and its community
maintained the same minority percentages. Gannett, for example, scored
a 79 in the diversity index, the top scorer of major newspaper owners.
closely followed with a diversity index of 74. The list is led by companies
reward programs for managers who promote minority recruitment.