ASNE Survey: Papers Fail 1st Newsroom Diversity Test

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Bouncing back from their deep cuts in the 2001 recession, U.S. daily newspapers in 2002 added more newsroom employees of all races — and increased minority journalists in particular — but failed to achieve the first so-called “benchmark” in the industry’s goal of achieving demographic parity of newsrooms and their markets by 2025.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) released the mostly positive survey of newsroom employment, its 26th annual Newsroom Census, as it opened its convention in New Orleans Tuesday.

ASNE said African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans comprise 12.53% of the approximately 55,000 newsroom employees at daily papers. The percentage was the second consecutive one-half of one percent annual increase in minority share of newsroom employment.

But ASNE noted the percentage fell three percentage points short of the three-year benchmarks ASNE set to gauge progress towards the 2025 parity goal. The four racial and ethnic minorities now make up about 31.1% of the general population.

The 2,919 African-American journalists working in 2002 comprised the largest minority in newsrooms, 5.53%. That percentage was a slight increase from the 5.29% recorded in last year’s census. The Hispanic newsroom employment of 2,212 represented an increase of an eighth of one percentage point to 4.04% of overall employment. Asian Americans were the fastest-growing minority cohort, gaining 152 journalists to 1,435 or 2.62% of overall employment.

Native Americans were the only minority journalist group that recorded losses in the ASNE census. The number of American Indian journalists declined by eight to 289, and the share of employment dropped to 0.53% from 0.56%.

The number of newspapers with no minority journalist on staff at all declined significantly in 2002 to 373 from 471. And in a first-time report, ASNE said 134 newspapers achieved or exceeded racial and ethnic parity with their communities.

In an independent analysis of the ASNE census, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation rated the nation’s 100 biggest newspapers and calculated a “diversity index” by dividing the percentages of minorities in their newsrooms by the percentages of minorities in their communities. The report by journalism researchers Bill Dedman and Steve Doig showed the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader as the newspaper with the most over-representation of minorities and a diversity index of 156, while The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune was the lowest with a diversity index of 21.

(To read the Knight Foundation’s complete report on “Does your newspaper reflect its community,” visit

Denver Post Editor Gregory L. Moore, who chairs ASNE’s diversity committee, said newspapers need to find more “aggressive solutions” to the diversity shortcoming. However, he added: “Any time we can report even small progress on the diversity front, that is good news.”

Overall newsroom employment increased a net 300 jobs, after losing nearly 2,000 jobs in 2001. The retention rate — the number of hires compared to the number of departures — for minority and white journalists also increased in 2002 by 4% for both groups.

ASNE found that the percentage of women journalists has declined slightly over the past three years, to 37.05% of total employment from 37.35%. The survey found the number of white women working in daily newsrooms has declined by 1,088 over the past three years, while the number of minority women has increased by 195.

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