We received a few inquiries last month regarding our annual 25 Under 35 list: “Where were the black newspaper leaders?”
Fair question, but I want to share a little bit about our selection process. This year we received 130 nominations from different newspapers from around the country and Canada. During a period of about two months, newspapers were invited to send us their nominations through a form on our website, where they could recognize a young newspaper professional (and we also encouraged young professionals to nominate themselves). Once the deadline passed, our editorial staff combed through the submissions, looking for leaders who were making a difference in their communities and moving the industry forward. Trust me—it wasn’t easy to go from 130 to just 25, but we are always confident in the individuals we select each year. We have no knowledge of their skin color until we contact them for photographs. We choose them based on their talents and accomplishments, their duties and responsibilities, and their passion and commitment to their profession. Of course we want to make sure we choose a diverse group of newspaper leaders, but we would be doing a disservice if we only focused on picking a person based on his or her race or gender.
The subject does call attention to another matter. Here at E&P we believe our next generation of newspaper leaders should come from all backgrounds; we also believe as a whole, our industry needs to work harder at hiring and promoting minorities. As an Asian-American woman, I have been the only the minority in a newsroom. When I go to newspaper conferences, I notice the majority of attendees are white and male. And the statistics show we still have a long way to go. The 2016 American Society of News Editors reported that minority journalists comprised only 17 percent of the workforce in newsrooms that responded to their annual diversity survey. But that’s only based on the number of newsrooms that actually responded. The ASNE reported that they contacted 1,734 news organizations. In total, 737 news organizations (646 print-only and 91 digital-only) responded to the survey. The ASNE relies on newsrooms to participate, in the same way we rely on newsrooms to send in nominations.
So, I want to ask that you help us recognize the diverse talent in your newsrooms. Send me your story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send assistant editor Sean Stroh (email@example.com) your new hires, promotions and relocations to be included in our NewsPeople section. If you have a headshot, send that to Sean too. We love seeing the faces making a positive impact in our industry on our pages. Later this year, we will be putting out a call for nominations for our annual Publisher of the Year feature, and nominations will open for our 2018 25 Under 35 list. I hope to read about your accomplishments soon, and I hope they come from individuals from a wide range of backgrounds.
Like the rest of the industry, we want to do better. Washington Post deputy general assignment editor Swati Sharma recently wrote in a Nieman Lab article, “If your newsroom isn’t diverse, you’re failing at journalism… If we don’t have reporters who vary in race, religion, economic status, and education, we will fail a core journalistic mission of capturing the pulse of our nation.” In today’s volatile climate, we can’t afford to lose the voices that are rising to be heard. Voices that want to report on immigrant stories, the Black Lives Matter movement, and equality rights. Now more than ever, the public is looking for a trusted source of information. The more voices we include, the more we become that source.