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Minority employment in newsrooms - Media hiring practices do not reflect population

by Shannon Stollenmaier, News editor

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 can employ.

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 as compared 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 minorities, 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 Dillman.

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 minority journalists. This is because newsrooms are having a hard time keeping their minority employees.

“ 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 the number of minority 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 is the percentage 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. Knight-Ridder closely followed with a diversity index of 74. The list is led by companies with reward programs for managers who promote minority recruitment.



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