New Program Boosts Minority Hiring at 2 Papers

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By: Carl Sullivan

As the newspaper industry’s drive to increase racial diversity among its journalists continues, a new diversity project is already claiming success.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists Parity Project launched last April as a fast-track approach to improve the hiring and news coverage of Latinos at American newspapers. The program identifies cities with significant Hispanic populations but with media outlets where the minority group is underrepresented. NAHJ then works with the media, local journalism schools, foundations and community leaders to increase Latino representation.

NAHJ reported last week that the number of full-time minority journalists at the first two participating newspapers rose sharply. The Denver Rocky Mountain News staff included 8.5% minority journalists in December 2002, but the count rose to 11.6% a year later. At the Ventura County Star in Ventura, Calif., the percentage expanded from 11.8% to 17.2%. Both papers are owned by the E.W. Scripps Co., which was the first major chain to partner with NAHJ on the project.

“These are startling numbers in such a short time,” said NAHJ President Juan Gonzalez in a statement. “We now have indisputable evidence that when a company’s top executives, like our friends at Scripps, are committed to both diversity and excellence in news … we can achieve wonders, quickly and without huge costs.”

He added that both newspapers have boosted not just Hispanic, but also African-American, Asian-American and Native American journalists on staff.

Ventura County Star Editor Tim Gallagher said the Parity Project helps newspapers more accurately reflect the communities they cover. “This is not just another flavor-of-the-month program designed to increase hiring of Latinos in newsrooms,” he said. “At its core, the Parity Project aims to help us do better journalism. And that’s what we’re in the business of doing.”

Four other Scripps papers joined the project later in the year, so it’s too early to measure results, Gonzalez said. A Lee Enterprises property, the North County Times of Escondido, Calif., will soon be the seventh paper to participate.

In other diversity efforts, the Freedom Forum of Arlington, Va., named 23 Chips Quinn Scholars last week for its Spring 2004 program. The program for college students or recent graduates of color includes a four-day orientation session at the Freedom Forum, followed by a 10- to 12-week paid internship at daily newspapers.

And the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute in Nashville, Tenn., welcomed its fifth class of seven fellows this past weekend. The 12-week training is designed for minorities who have had no formal journalism training but wish to join the Fourth Estate. Participating newspapers agree to hire the nominees as full-time journalists after they complete their training.

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