ASNE Survey: Over Last Year, Dailies Shrank Their Newsrooms By Biggest Margin In Three Decades

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

U.S. daily newspapers shrank their newsrooms by 2,400 journalists in the past year, a 4.4% workforce decrease that’s the biggest year-over-year cut in ranks since the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) began conducting its annual census 30 years ago.

ASNE said 52,600 people work full-time in daily newspaper newsrooms — a number that has not been that low since 1984.

Among those leaving dailies in the past year were a net of nearly 300 fewer journalists of color than worked in newsrooms this time last year, ASNE found in the census released Sunday.

Because of the wave of layoffs and hiring freezes, the percentage of journalists of color in daily newsrooms actually grew by a tiny margin, to 13.52% from 13.43 percent of all journalists, according to
ASNE.

“The numbers represent a dual reality: It’s mildly encouraging that the minority percentage held steady despite difficult economic times that are causing many cutbacks,” ASNE President Gilbert Bailon, the editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said in a statement. “On the other hand, the total number of minority journalists employed at daily newspapers declined by nearly 300 people, which follows the pattern for the overall newsroom workforce. Such a trend will not help newspapers in their quest to reach parity with the minority population by 2025.”

When ASNE first launched annual newsroom census in 1978, it proposed an industry-wide goal of matching the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms with the percentage in the population large. It first proposed reaching that “parity” by 2000. When it fell far short, it set a new goal of 2025.

Slow progress in hiring and retaining journalists of color combined with fast growth in the percentages of racial and ethnic minorities makes the prospect of reaching that goal increasingly remote. About one-third of Americans are minorities, and in four states they comprise more than 50% of the population.

The leaders of the associations of black, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American journalists, plus the president of their umbrella organization, Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., reacted to what one called “dismal” numbers by declaring the parity goal is effectively dead, and that they would concentrate on increasing the numbers of senior newsroom managers who are minorities to try to effect diversity change from the top.

The total figure of 52,600 full-time daily journalists has not been as low since 1984, when newspapers employed 50,400, of whom 7,100, or 5.75%, were racial or ethnic minorities. [This story has been corrected. An earlier version understated the total number of journalists of color in daily newsrooms.]

The largest number and percentage of journalists of color are black, with 2,790 or 5.3% of the workforce. Next most populous are Hispanic journalists, with 2,346 or 4.5% of newsrooms. Some 1,692 journalists, or 3.2% of the workforce, are Asian American. Native Americans are by far the smallest minority group, with 284 journalists or 0.5% of newsroom employees.

Minority journalists are most likely to be reporters, with just 11.4% of supervisors being journalists of color, according to the ASNE survey.

Men continue to outnumber women in the daily newsroom by a 63% to 37% margin, ASNE found.
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E&P Editor Greg Mitchell’s new book is “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq,” with a foreword by Joseph L. Galloway and preface by Bruce Springsteen.

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