Diversity Census: In Shrinking Newsrooms, Slightly More Minority Journos

By: Mark Fitzgerald During a year in which the number of full-time journalists working on daily newspapers declined by more than 2,200, the percentage of journalists of color crept up less than half a percentage point to 13.42%, according to the 26th annual newsroom census released today at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Washington, D.C.

While 2005 marked the fourth straight year in which the percentage of racial and ethnic minority members in daily newsrooms increased, the tiny progress shows that the industry remains far from ASNE's goal of matching the percentage of minorities in the newsroom with the percentage in the general population by 2025. Right now, minorities make up 31.7% of the U.S. population.

Unity: Journalists of Color, the umbrella group for the associations of black, Asian American, Hispanic, and Native American journalists, called the results "dismal."

"It is clear that ASNE will not reach its goal of achieving parity in the newsroom by 2025 as long as this remains an institutional goal and not a personal one for its hundreds of members," said Unity President Mae Cheng. "For this reason, Unity is asking each ASNE member to personally accept the challenge of improving diversity in his or her newsroom." She said editors should consider "even taking the dramatic step of making a majority of their hires over the next year qualified people of color to begin to finally move that needle."

This was the second straight year in which the overall number of daily newspaper journalists declined, ASNE said.

While the total number of newsroom professionals has dropped 4% in four years -- from 56,393 in 2001 to 54,134 in 2005 -- the number of minority journalists in the same period showed a net increase of 700. Of these, 365 were Asian Americans, 259 were Latinos, 46 were Native Americans, and 34 were black.

White women showed the biggest decline over the four-year period, declining by 6.8%, or a net of 1,230. The number of white men decreased by 5.5%, or a net loss of 1,744.

Reporters were hit hardest in the shrinkage, which ASNE attributed largely to layoffs and buyouts. Newsrooms, the organization said, lost 1,000 reporters, nearly 600 editors, nearly 300 photographers and artists, and just over 400 copy editors.

Daily newspapering remains a man's world, the ASNE survey found. It said 65.2% of all supervisors are men, as are 58.8% percent of all copy editors, 60.1% of reporters, and 72.6% of photographers.

Overall, women make up 37.54% of newsrooms, up barely from 37.35 in 2001. Minority women, ASNE said, account for 17.20% of newsroom professionals, up from 16.27% last year and 14.28% in 2001.

Minorities account for 10.8% of all supervisors in newsrooms, ASNE found.

The number of newspapers with no minority employees at all is on the decline. This year, 347 dailies reported employing no minorities. Most of these have circulations below 10,000, the survey found. Five years ago, 422 papers reported having no minority employees.

ASNE officials were relieved the numbers of minorities went up but disappointed by the size of the increases.

"It is always good to go forward especially at a time when demographic change is such a powerful factor in our communities," ASNE President Karla Garrett Harshaw said in a statement. "Because of those changes, we need to measure our progress by full percentage points, and not fractions. We simply must move more urgently." Harshaw is editor of the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun and senior editor of Cox Community Newspapers.

Similarly, the chairman of the ASNE Diversity Committee, Washington Post Deputy Managing Editor Milton Coleman, said the increases among Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans was heartening. "At the same time," he added, "the trend among black journalists is increasingly worrisome, as the numbers have grown only marginally. The trend is disturbing. We need to figure out what's going wrong and address it immediately."

This year, 926 papers, or 65.5% of the nation's 1,413 daily newspapers, responded to the ASNE survey. Data from respondents is then "projected to reflect all daily newspapers in the country," the organization said.

The complete survey is available on ASNE's Web site, www.asne.org.


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