On Sunday, CNN broadcasted Politico's meeting of editors and reporters as they planned the political news website's weekly coverage on health care reform in the U.S. Present at the meeting were John Harris, Politico's editor-in-chief, James Vandehei, Politico's executive editor, and a number of Politico's top White House correspondents. Very visibly missing were any reporters of color and any participating women.
The transcript of the clip is peppered with quotes from "unidentified male(s)," but the lone woman visible during the clip never speaks. None of Politico's five staff members of color--out of an overall staff of 85--were present at this meeting. Richard Prince in his blog, Journal-isms, recounted some of the negative responses to Politico's lack of diversity at such a high-level planning meeting.
"(The editorial meeting) was pathetic. All white folks at the table deciding the stories to cover. Not one African American or any other minority," says a journalist in an e-mail to the National Association of Black Journalists e-mail list.
Another laments: "How can they consider themselves 'new media' when they look just like the old media?"
The lack of diversity at this meeting was striking because of the visual uniformity of the scene, but it reflects a developing trend in the newsroom. Although minorities compose over 33 percent of the population in the U.S., in 2008, as reported by the American Society of News Editors in their annual census, only 13.4 percent of journalists were people of color.
Women fare only marginally better, with seven male bylines printed at major magazines for every one female byline. Newsweek, which has a 39 percent female editorial board, reports that the four most common jobs for women today are stereotypically "pink-collar" jobs, with 43 percent of women working as secretaries, nurses, teachers and cashiers. Of Newsweek's 49 cover stories last year, men wrote all but six. And only two women currently work as editors of top circulation dailies in the U.S.
In response, Politico's Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris lauded its "racial diversity in most of the most important positions in our newsroom," citing their White House, photo, and congressional teams, as well as the copy and production desks. He also assured Prince that the publication has made progress on racial diversity since its creation, and is "expecting more progress as the publication matures."
Perhaps Politico's plan to increase its staff size from 85 to 100 will help to augment diversity in its newsroom, but as many publications downsize, will there be enough room for women and minorities on mastheads in the future?