By: Mark Fitzgerald

Percentage Is Down For First Time In 23 Years

WASHINGTON – With more ethnic and racial minority
journalists walking away from daily newspapers, the percentage of
minorities in daily newsrooms is down for the first time in the
23 years the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) has
conducted its diversity census.

ASNE reported Tuesday that the percentage of minority journalists
in daily newsrooms fell from 11.85% to 11.64% over the past year.
The actual number of minority journalists working at daily papers
also fell from 6,665 to 6,563 – during a period when the
industry overall added 154 employees for total newsroom
employment of 56,393.

In the previous year, the number of minority journalists
declined, although the percentage showed a slight increase.

The twin declines this year come even as a highly touted industry
effort to increase the “pipeline” of minority journalists from
high school and college into first-time professional jobs appears
to be paying off surprisingly well and quickly. ASNE said nearly
600 minorities were hired for their first daily newsroom job in
2000, which was the largest increase since 1991.

But that gain was wiped out by the 698 minority professional
journalists who left daily papers last year. The retention rate
for minority journalists fell off significantly over the year,
from 96% to 90%. By contrast the retention rate of what ASNE
calls “nonminority” journalists was off only slightly, from 96%
to 95%.

The percentages of newsroom employment declined among all
minority groups measured by ASNE: African American, Hispanic,
Asian American, and Native American.

ASNE president Rich Oppel, editor of the Austin American-
Statesman, called the results “simply not acceptable.” ASNE’s
board voted Monday to begin “quantitative research” on newsroom
management practices and minority retention. “The first step will
be to conduct quantitative research this year to establish
whether or not certain actions and behaviors by top and middle
managers can help create a working environment more conducive to
attracting and retaining minorities,” the editors group said.

The biggest minority journalists group, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), said it was “disappointed and frustrated” by the results.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” said NABJ President William W. Sutton Jr., deputy managing editor of The News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C. “Our nation is becoming increasingly diverse and our nation’s newspapers are becoming less diverse. Is that any way to truly represent our communities in an accurate, balanced and fair way?

“I simply don’t understand why so many top editors are so willing to mouth the right words but go into their offices and do the same things. If this were an advertising, circulation, or a general revenue problem, I’m sure more people would be paying attention and there would be more positive results.”

Mark Fitzgerald ( is editor at large for E&P.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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