By: MARK FITZGERALD
Wrestle Over Year 2000 Goal
What next after newspapers have blown chance to meet goal of integrating
newsrooms to parity with population?
WITH THE NEWSPAPER industry’s much ballyhooed Year 2000 diversity goal out of reach, editors and minority journalists are struggling over what should replace it.
It looks to be a messy ? and noisy ? process.
“One of the strengths of the Year 2000 goal was that it was simple: Parity between minority representation on newspapers and the percentage of minorities in the general population. Simple and catchy,” said Loren Ghiglione, who is preparing a report for the American Society of Newspaper Editors about diversity in the 21st century. “But diversity is tough. And while Year 2000 was catchy, it also created expectation ? and expectations have a double edge to them.”
When it comes to the Year 2000 goal, expectations have certainly been dashed.
ASNE adopted the goal in 1978, when people of color made up about 13% of U.S. population and were expected to grow to just 15% by 2000. Instead, minority population zoomed to 24% in 1997, and is expected to be closer to 30% within two years.
Minority representation in newsrooms has grown, too ? but nowhere near as fast or as large. Since 1988, for example, the percentage increased from just over 7% to 11.02% in 1996. In fact, progress has stalled. ASNE identified 6,000 minority newspaper employees in 1996, even with the year before.
ASNE will release its latest survey of minority newsroom employment at its convention in Washington, D.C., March 31-April 4 ? and is unlikely to document any dramatic turnaround.
Journalists of color say their biggest worry now is that, having failed with Year 2000, the industry will throw up its hands on diversity and slow progress even more. Those fears grew after a “dialogue on diversity” ASNE convened in San Francisco in January.
“It was frustrating,” said Walt Swanston, executive director of Unity: Journalists of Color, the umbrella group of black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalism associations formerly known as Unity ’99.
“We went there not expecting to set a new goal ? but we did not go there expecting they would take strong leadership on the issue,” Swanston added. “We wanted to know: Are you going to be more forceful in your leadership? And that didn’t happen.”
All the ethnic and racial journalists’ associations want to see a new ? and specific ? diversity target, says Paul DeMain, publisher of News From Indian Country in Hayward, Wis., and the current Unity president.
“What I keep hearing people say is that there needs to be some kind of goal…some kind of reasonable goal so we know where we are going,” DeMain said.
In a letter to ASNE president Sandra Mims Rowe, DeMain urged editors to work faster on developing a new goal.
“We believe ASNE remains committed to diversity,” he wrote. “But we believe the ASNE does not need another nine months to agree on a new diversity goal.”
Unity’s board wants to keep a numerical goal that aims at racial and ethnic parity in the newsrooms, and it wants ASNE to “stand firm” with the many smaller newspapers ? nearly half of all dailies ? who have no journalists of color at all on their staffs.
Unity also opposes opening up the definition of diversity to include, for instance, gender or sexual orientation.
“Race and ethnicity remain the most divisive issues in the country,” Unity’s Swanston wrote in a response to questions from ASNE’s Ghiglione. “While Unity appreciates and realizes the importance of diversity of all kinds, ASNE should continue to focus on race and ethnicity.”
Ghiglione, a former ASNE president who now heads the journalism program at Emory University in Atlanta, has come up with 13 recommendations for the editors. Among them is a proposal to set different numerical goals depending on the location of papers, though Ghiglione says he wants to avoid setting quotas for individual papers.
“Another thing I’m looking at is a more frequent review of goals,” he said, noting how the Year 2000 goal slipped out of reach over the past two decades.
“ASNE is looking for rough equivalency,” Ghiglione said. “I just think it needs to be a little more sophisticated based on what we know now.” He is also inclined to broaden the definition of diversity to include not only gender and sexual orientation ? but political and social opinions as well.
“I’ve been struck hearing how religious
conservatives, for instance, feel intimidated
about speaking out in editorial meetings where there may not be much sympathy for their views. I don’t see diversity as a zero-sum game. . . I think we can fight on several fronts at once,” Ghiglione said.
Despite the disagreements on particulars, both the editors and minority journalist leaders say they share the same commitment.
“There has been progress,” Unity’s Paul DeMain said. “The dialogue is getting easier between the groups as we get together more.”
?(ASNE is looking for rough equivalency. I just think it needs to be a little more sophisticated based on what we know now.”
?(-Loren Ghiglione, former ASNE president and author of a study on minority hiriing strategies) [Photo & Caption]
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com)
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher March 28, 1998) [Caption]