Unity: Minorities Should Be 20% Of Newsrooms By 2008

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

By 2008, minority journalists should comprise no less than 20% of American newsrooms, and at least 15% of newsroom managers, declares the new five-year strategic plan from Unity: Journalists of Color Inc.

Unity, the alliance of the four national associations for black, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American journalists, also intends to sponsor a presidential debate during the 2008 election cycle “to ensure that issues critical to the nation?s communities of color are addressed,” the plan says.

The plan, released yesterday, reinforces the organization’s oft-stated goal of becoming more than a twice-a-decade joint convention of the minority journalists associations. Unity must become a “more forceful and consistent” voice for journalists of color that comments continually on journalism and diversity, the plan states.

Among Unity’s declared strategies, for instance, is the convening of town hall-style meetings every year to discuss diversity topics.

Unity’s convention last summer in Washington was the largest-ever gathering of American journalists, attracting 8,100 attendees. The strategic plan calls for increasing the attendance of media companies at the 2008 Unity convention by 25% — and increasing the financial sponsorship level of those companies by 25% as well.

“UNITY will continue to weigh in on issues affecting our members, whether it deals with diversity and fair and accurate coverage or whether it deals with freedom of the press and media consolidation,” Unity President Mae Cheng, an assistant city editor for Newsday, said in a statement. “We will also play a greater role in working with communities of color across the country to learn how we can better cover them and their issues — as well as to ensure that news products better serve them.”

Unity’s goal of increasing minorities to 20% of newsroom staff within three years is considerably more ambitious than the newspaper industry’s aim of gradually increasing the percentage of journalists of color in newsrooms until it matches nationwide demographics in the year 2025.

In its most recent survey of daily newspaper newsrooms, released last April, the American Society of Newspaper Editors said journalists of color comprised 12.9% of newsrooms — lagging considerably the 31.7% of minorities in the U.S. population at large.

Unity is made up of four associations: the Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.

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