Study: Diverse Newsroom Better Indicator of Coverage Than Diverse Population

By: Lesley Messer

A recent study commissioned by an organization of minority journalists concluded that newsrooms with larger numbers of Asian American staffers did a better job of covering Asian American communities and issues than less-diverse newsrooms.

The report, commissioned by the Asian American Journalists Association and titled ?Representing the Total Community: Relationships Between Asian American Staff and Asian American Coverage in U.S. Newspapers,? was co-authored by Ohio University mass communications professor Ralph Izard and Louisiana State University communications professor Denis Wu. It was funded by The World Journal and coordinated by Abe Wok, online news director with azcentral.com.

“This study supports the long-suspected association between the presence of ethnic journalists and the quality and certain attributes of reporting about an ethnic group,” Izard and Wu wrote in the conclusion of their report. “Moreover, it appears that the number of Asian American journalists is a stronger catalyst than the factor of Asian American population in bolstering coverage about Asian Americans.”

To complete their study, Izard and Wu examined a sample of newspapers from different regions of the country, with varying numbers of Asian American staff and circulation: The Baton Rouge Advocate, The Boston Globe, The Raleigh News & Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Seattle Times and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (The Boston Globe did not report the number of their Asian American staff members, so researchers used the number of AAJA members on staff at the Globe as a reference.)

Authors used several sets of data, including AAPI demographics of populations served by the newspapers and Lexis/Nexis, to identify relevant news stories using keywords and phrases such as ?Asian American,? ?Asian,? or a specific Asian ethnicity. The sample did not include articles exclusively pertaining to the Asian regions of the world.

Research showed 166 stories throughout all six papers and each article was given values reflecting byline (whether the writer was Asian American or had an Asian American name), length, topics, sources (the kind of source and whether the source was Asian American or had an Asian American name), and depth (rated substantive or superficial).

The three papers with larger numbers of Asian American staffers and larger Asian American populations — The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune — appeared to provide better coverage of the Asian American community, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

The most frequently covered topics were culture, entertainment, and features on immigration and naturalization, representing 71% of the sample. Stories on business, education, and food were also prevalent.

?AAJA has long advocated for more representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in newsrooms as the best way to ensure fair and accurate coverage of those communities,? Wu said in a statement. ?This is the first research report of its kind that statistically validates a key part of our organization?s mission. We will use its findings as we continue to work with newspapers across the country to encourage hiring and retaining more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the newsroom.?

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