The measurement of diversity in journalism is falling behind


More than a year after that George Floyd ‘With efforts to diversify newsrooms attracting attention, the ability to measure real progress is proving elusive.

The News Leaders Association, a journalism trade group, extended the deadline for responding to its survey of employment practices among news organizations by two months after expressing disappointment at how few are willing to reveal the diversity of its employees.

The group is hoping to get the largest possible turnout from an estimated 5,900 newsrooms across the country but has received fewer than 250 responses, said Meredith Clark, a Northeastern University professor conducting the survey.

“As a researcher and journalist, I am deeply discouraged that the journalism industry is not as transparent about its people as it expects other industries to be,” said Clark.

There were tangible signs of advancement in the industry, particularly in various recruitments for some key journalism jobs: Kevin Merida, the second black editor-in-chief of The Los Angeles Times after Dean baquet; Kim Godwin and Rashida Jones, both black women, as presidents of abc news and MSNBC; Katrice Hardy and Monica Richardson, the first black editors-in-chief at the Dallas Morning News and Miami Herald; and Daisies Veerasingham, the first woman and first person of color to be called The Associated Press‘President and CEO.

Kevin Merida
Los Angeles Times Editor Kevin Merida (Image via LA Times)

Newsrooms across the gannett chain, The New York Times, the Washington Post and NBC news have publicly published statistics on diversity attitudes. There have been extensive bias calculations in newspapers like that Kansas City Star and Los Angeles times.

Despite these steps, the overall picture of diversity remains blurred.

First, a forerunner, the American Society of News Editors, conducted a survey of the diversity of newsrooms since the mid-1970s after a report by the Kerner Commission described the absence of black journalists as “shockingly backward”. News organizations aimed to have employees by 2000 who would reflect their communities.

“The more diversity you have in your newsroom, the better at understanding what’s going on in your community,” said Myriam Marquez, Executive Director of the News Leaders Group, which includes executives from newspapers, websites and media groups.

A lack of diversity can be seen in many news decisions: for many critics, attention is drawn to the story of Gabby Petito, a young woman found dead after traveling overland with her fiancé reflects a longstanding concern that journalists in similar situations pay more attention than minorities to missing white women in similar situations.

Despite some improvements, the 2000 target was not met and diversity concerns faded with the industry’s financial collapse over the past two decades. Participation in the annual survey also became sketchy and was suspended in 2019 after only 293 responses.

Clark was tasked with creating a more thorough and modern questionnaire and looking for ways to get more participation as internal peer pressure proves to be inadequate.

(Adobe Stock Photo)

This year’s efforts got off to a sluggish start as much of the group’s contact list was initially out of date. The survey asked for more information than in previous years and it was time consuming. Some organizations have raised concerns about violations of employee privacy, but organizers insist that this should not be a problem.

“In some cases, people may know, frankly, that the current state of their news organization is not what they hoped it would be,” said Hardy, newly appointed editor in Dallas and head of the NLA’s diversity committee . “I think that’s a factor every year, but especially after a year of social unrest.”

Since organizations are asked to provide voluntary information – as opposed to a random sample – it stands to reason that organizations that are making progress towards the diversity goals are the most likely to participate, which raises doubts as to whether the survey really reflects what is going on.

Nearly 90 of the polls returned are from Gannett newspapers, which have been particularly aggressive in promoting diversity and, last month, had the editors of all of their newspapers report to their readers on progress toward their goals. Gannett as a company has set a goal in 2025 that its outlets achieve race and gender parity with their communities.

As an an example, the Arizona Republic said that 38% of their journalists were colored as of July, up from 20% five years earlier. The goal is 44%. Editor-in-chief Greg Burton told readers how reporting and editorial requirements had changed to cover equity issues.

Hardy said she was not concerned that the news anchors’ report presented false progress.

“I don’t think any of us are happy with where we are,” she said.

It might be a longer-term solution, but the group is considering asking foundations and others who provide funding to news organizations to take the survey before they receive a grant. The same goes for journalism awards: if you want to take part in the competition for a Pulitzer, show that you have completed a survey.

Clark said her goal was to get 1,500 responses to make a statistically sound report. It seems questionable whether they will get there by the end of October, the new date. but George Stanley, NLA President, said there was a base of attendees including Gannett, McClatchy Newspapers, ProPublica, Buzzfeed and The Associated Press – The latter for the first time – that it will be worthwhile to publish this information.

“I think that by demonstrating their commitment, these participating organizations will gain an advantage in recruiting and encourage others,” said Stanley, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

the New York Times said earlier this year that the proportion of non-white employees had increased from 27% in 2015 to 34% last year. At the times Washington Post and USA today, the majority of the editorial staff are women.

(Adobe Stock Photo)

The AP reported that 76% of their full-time news workers in the United States are white, 8% are Latinos, 7% are black, and 6% are Asian. The message management is 81% white.

When he started as the news chief at NBC Universal last year, Cesar Conde publicly set the target for staff consisting of 50% minority and 50% women, although he did not give a deadline. Since then, an average of 48% blacks and 63% women have been hired per month, the network said. The division’s minority stake rose from 27% to 30%.

Hiring minorities is important, but also keeping them, said Doris Truong, Director of Education and Diversity at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. The news industry is seeing a generation change among young workers who are less willing to wait for a change in attitudes, she said.

“There is no pipeline problem,” said Robert Hernandez, Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. “We produce diverse students. The reality is that they are not hired, not hired, not promoted. “

Dawn Staley

Hardy said retention is a real problem and the impatience for advancement is nothing special for a younger generation.

She hopes that last year’s celebrity hires will help bring about real change.

“It’s a passion we have,” she said. “It’s something we’ve lived and breathed and discussed and that we’ve wanted to help over the years. Honestly, the money ends with us. “

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