BLACK REPRESENTATION IN NEWSPAPER NEWSROOMS DECREASES

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Overall, Minority Employment Up Only Slightly


While the numbers of minorities working in daily newspaper newsrooms increased a
tiny bit over the last year, the percentage of black journalists decreased for
the first time in two decades, the annual survey from the American Society of
Newspaper Editors (ASNE) finds.



The survey, released as ASNE began its annual convention in Washington, D.C.,
yesterday, found overall minority newsroom employment increased slightly from
11.55% to 11.85%. Minorities comprise 28.4% of the general U.S. population.



In a year when daily newspapers added more than 1,100 journalists to a total
workforce of 56,200, the percentage of African Americans in newsrooms declined
from 5.36% last year to 5.31%. The actual number of black journalists increased
by 31 employees to 2,953.



Will Sutton, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists
(NABJ), says the findings are ‘devastating.’



‘I think this shows a crisis of confidence in the newspaper industry,’ says
Sutton, deputy managing editor of The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. ‘Clearly,
black folks are not as important to this industry at this time.’



An analysis of the ASNE survey by The Freedom Forum reports that at its current
rate of taking on minority journalists, daily newspapers would have to reserve
for minorities fully half of all new jobs if the industry is to have any hope of
reaching its goal of reflecting by 2025 the overall minority population of in
the United States.



‘What is clear from this analysis is that the existing ‘pipeline’ that
contributes new journalists of color to the newspaper industry is too small,’
says Charles L. Overby, chairman and CEO of The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.
‘We have to create new pathways to lead people of color into newspaper
journalism.’



ASNE President, N. Christian Anderson III, publisher of The Orange County
Register in Santa Ana, Calif., says the percentage decline of black journalists
is ‘troubling.’ But ASNE officials say there are reasons to be optimistic about
the newspaper industry’s long-term ability to employ newsrooms that mirror
America’s racial and ethnic makeup.



Tomorrow, ASNE and The Freedom Forum are scheduled to announce a $5 million plan
aimed at attracting young people to newspaper journalism. ‘Some of the effects
of that will not be seen until 2005 or 2006,’ says ASNE Vice President Richard
Oppel, editor of the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman.



ASNE President Anderson also notes that the 0.3% increase in minorities, while
small, is the highest gain the newspaper industry has made in the past half-

decade. The percentage of daily papers that employ no minority journalists at
all also declined to its lowest level ever, 39%. The percentage of interns who
are minorities increased slightly from 31.13% to 31.42%, ASNE says.



At 5.31% and 2,984 employees, African Americans are the biggest minority in
daily newspaper newsrooms. The 2,068 Hispanic journalists comprise 3.68% of
newsrooms, an increase from 3.46% last year. The 1,321 Asian-American
journalists account for 2.35% of newsrooms, up from 2.29%. Native American
journalists increased by 51 employees last year, a percentage increase from
0.44% to 0.52%.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Mark Fitzgerald (mfitzgerald@editorandpublisher.com) is editor at
large for Editor & Publisher magazine.









(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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