ASNE: Percentage Of Minority Journalists Moves Up Less Than 0.5%

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Journalists of color represented only 13.87% of the staff in America’s daily newsrooms in 2005, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ (ASNE) 29th annual newsroom census released Tuesday.

That percentage represented a nearly invisible increase from last year’s census, which identified 13.42% of daily journalists as belonging to racial and ethnic minority groups.

About one-quarter of U.S. daily newspapers do not employ a single minority journalist. This year, 377 newspapers reported no minority newsroom employees.

The results show daily newspapers are lagging badly in the goal adopted by ASNE of achieving a parity by 2025 between the percentage of minority journalists working in daily newsrooms, and the percentage of people of color in the U.S. general population. About one-third of the U.S. population is comprised of people from racial or ethnic minority groups.

ASNE established three-year “benchmarks” to check progress toward the goal. The benchmark for this year’s census was a minority newsroom percentage of 18.55%.

Newsrooms did better in reaching the benchmark for minority interns. The goal was 36.35%, while the actual percentage reached was 30.8%.

ASNE said 145 dailies have achieved parity between their newsrooms and the percentage of minorities in their circulation areas. The benchmark for this census had been more than double that number, 348.

“While it’s encouraging that the number of minority staffers in American newsrooms is up, the increase — 0.45% — is almost imperceptible,” said ASNE Diversity Chair Sharon Rosenhause, managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. “The most troubling aspect of the census is the benchmark categories. None are even close.”

This year’s census showed increases — albeit very slight increases — in the percentage of representation of all four minority groups tracked.

African Americans are the most numerous newsroom group, with 3,050 employees representing 5.56% of newsroom employment. Hispanics were the second-largest group, representing 4.51% with 2,474 employees. The 1,768 Asian American newsroom employees represented 3.23% of the workforce, and the 309 Native American employees 0.56%, ASNE found.

This year’s census for the first time included 11 free dailies, bringing the total of newspapers surveyed to 1,417. Total newsroom employment was 54,809, up slightly from last year’s total of 54,134 — but still down from 2001 total employment of 56,393.

Without the free dailies, ASNE said, newsroom employment would have slipped by 600 journalists.

“Thus, paid-circulation newspapers have dropped about 2,800 journalists in the past five years as the industry has struggled economically,” ASNE said in its census announcement.

ASNE has been conducting the newsroom census since 1978, when it revealed that minority journalists represented just 3.95% percent of the total newsroom workforce, or 1,700 out of 43,000 employees.

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