ASNE Pulls Back From Ethnic Diversity Goal p.83

By: Kelvin Childs Newsroom parity deadlines extended

EVEN AS IT reaffirmed a commitment to newsroom ethnic diversity at its 75th annual convention, the American Society of Newspaper Editors announced that it is scaling back its goal and deadline for parity.
In a draft statement released at its April gathering in Washington, D.C., ASNE said its reduced goal calls for daily newspapers to increase the number of minorities in newsrooms by "20% industrywide by 2010, and to achieve parity with local communities as soon as possible."
The organization previously called for newspapers to alter the ethnic mix of their newsrooms to match that of the general population. The 1998 edition of ASNE's annual employment study says minorities represent 11.46% of America's 54,700 newsroom workers. However, minorities comprise 26% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. ASNE is seeking comment on the draft and plans to adopt a final version in October.
"Certainly, we're disappointed, but I can't say we're surprised," said Vanessa Williams, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and Washington Post staff writer. "The industry has not just lost interest in diversity, but there seems to be outright hostility. . . . They treat it as a problem that has to be dealt with rather than as an opportunity for more readers and better journalism."
Loren Ghiglione, program director of Emory University's journalism department, said, "I think the commitment needs to be an issue." Of complaints that ASNE's original target was unrealistic, Ghiglione said, "I think this discussion of what's realistic is a slippery slope. . . . I think a higher goal can be realistic." He cited the Gannett Co. as one that has a strong commitment to diversity; its minority staffing levels are at 31.4%.
"This discussion about employment goals should not take us away from coverage," Ghiglione said. He cited a study that found most ethnic groups are routinely covered as social problems. A looming consideration must be whether all communities are covered thoroughly and fairly, he said.
A. Stephen Montiel, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said coverage has improved. "When you look at newspapers, the content is more diverse than it was 20 years ago," he said. "So, it's a matter of reinvigorating the passion and the will" for diversity.
Noting that ASNE's draft statement calls for advocating diversity in content "as a journalistic core value," Montiel said, "It may be that too much is being made of the numerical goal and not enough on the other parts of the statement."
?(A $5.2 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation will help the American Press Institute pay for renovations and expansion of its headquarters in Reston, Va. Don Reynolds, the entrepreneurial founder of Donrey Media Inc., died in 1993 leaving his $1.3 billion estate to his foundation, which provides grants for building and equipping facilities for colleges and other social service organizations. Planned renovations to the 24-year-old API building, a training center for newspaper staffers around the country, include wiring, carpeting, ceilings, a new roof and construction of a 6,000-square-foot addition on the front of the building. The addition will house the new Media Center, online seminars and storage space. Construction is expected to wind up by the end of 1999.) [Photo & Caption]
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 18, 1998) [Caption]


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