Papers Saw Greatest Journalist Drain In 25 Years

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By: Joe Strupp

Newspapers experienced their largest loss of journalists in 25 years, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) annual newsroom census, which revealed Tuesday that nearly 2,000 editorial employees had left the industry in the past year.

At the same time, the poll showed a slight increase in the percentage of minority journalists working at daily newspapers, up nearly half a percentage point, to 12.07%.

“These numbers evoke a sigh of relief, not exhilaration,” ASNE President Tim McGuire said about the minority statistics. “I am pleased we are back on the positive track since many people had many dire predictions that the economic downturn was especially harmful to journalists of color.”

The increase in the percentage of minority journalists working at daily newspapers came after a decrease, from 11.85% to 11.64% in the 2001 survey. Last year’s decline was the first since ASNE established the annual census in 1978.

This year’s survey was released today at ASNE’s annual convention, which is being held in the nation’s capital this week. The poll included responses from 956 of the nation’s 1,435 daily newspapers.

Among the significant findings is data showing that newsrooms lost 1,979 editorial employees, mostly reporters at medium-sized papers. ASNE officials blamed much of the reduction on layoffs, buyout offers, and early-retirement programs at many papers seeking to reduce costs.

Those who left newsrooms included 1,101 reporters, 437 supervisors, 225 copy editors, and 216 photographers and artists. America’s largest newspapers — those with circulations of more than 250,000 — lost 144 people, while 1,203 people left newspapers with circulations between 50,001 and 250,000.

In 2000, the number of papers with no minorities had declined to 368 (39% of newspapers), but the percentage increased in 2001 and 2002. In 2001, 44% of dailies said they had no minorities in their newsrooms, and this year, that number rose to 45%. Twenty percent of all minorities were supervisors, a slight increase from last year. Overall, minorities account for 9.7% of the total number of supervisors in newsrooms.

Nearly two-thirds of all minority journalists continue to work at papers with daily circulations of more than 100,000.

The percentage of women in daily newsrooms declined slightly, from 37.35% to 37.05%, during the past year. Women represented 34% of newsroom supervisors, the same percentage as last year.

The total number of newspaper employees in the ASNE survey is 54,414. Women on daily newspaper staffs total 20,161, a decrease of 901. Of that total, 14.83% are minorities. Men on daily newspaper staffs total 34,253, a decrease of 1,078. Of these, 10.44% are minorities.

Twenty-two percent of the women are supervisors, 22% are copy editors, 48% are reporters, and 8% photographers and artists. Of the men in newsrooms, 26% are supervisors, 18% copy editors, 43% reporters, and 13% photographers.

For more details, see the ASNE Web site.

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