According to a report released by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Center for Advanced Social Research at the Missouri School of Journalism, the percentage of minorities employed in newsrooms is 12.32%, about a percentage point less than the survey from 2010, Poynter reports.
The ASNE began conducting the survey in 1978, when minorities composed only 4% of newsroom employees, and saw increases in minority presence in the newsroom up until 2006 (13.73%), according to Poynter. Since then, the percentage of minorities has been declining faster than the overall percentage drop in newsroom employees, the article said.
An article by ASNE stated that while overall newsroom employment decreased by 2.4% in 2011, minority employment in newsrooms decreased by 5.7%.
The statistics indicate, however, that the decline in minority employment may in fact be stabilizing, with a loss of 500 jobs in 2011 as opposed to 800 in both 2008 and 2009, the article stated.
“There were slight decreases in the percentage of employees in each minority category in 2011, although the census was revised this year to add a category of ‘multi-racial,’” the article said. “This could account for some of the loss in other categories.”
Other changes include the increased number of online-only newspapers participating in the census, though they were not included in the ASNE’s overall results, Poynter said. Several large sites, such as The Huffington Post and Politico, chose not to participate in the census, with some citing the release of diversity information as against their policies, the article said.
Despite evidence of stability, the report may still be cause for concern, especially in terms of newspaper content.
Ronnie Agnew, ASNE Diversity Committee Co-Chair, said in the ASNE article, “Clearly, we have more work to do. While the numbers suggest stabilization, the trend shows that the exodus from this important industry among people of color continues. This is far from just a numbers issue; this is a troubling content issue. The decline will only stop when people in leadership embrace diversity as an essential part of their business.”
Karen Magnuson, Democrat and Chronicle Media Group Editor and Vice President for news, also told ASNE that diversity is key to ensuring business success.
"I'm glad that the percentages appear to have stabilized, but our industry still falls significantly short of accurately reflecting the population it serves,” she said. “As our ‘Future of Diversity in the News’ report warns, diversity is a business imperative. We must ensure that we cultivate diverse, creative staffs to create content that is relevant to growing communities of color. It's a critical key to our survival.”
The article notes that minority employment in newspapers is still quite small compared to the percentage of minorities which comprise the papers’ consumer markets.
To examine issues of minority representation in the journalism industry, the National Union of Journalists will host its Black members conference in London on April 14, according to the website.
In addition to minority employment, the percentage of women in journalism has recently been a topic of discussion. The 2011 ASNE annual convention opened with an all-female panel of top newspaper editors, including Jill Abramson of The New York Times and Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, according to Poynter. Members of the panel noted that all-female panels are rare in the journalism industry, the article said.
As we previously reported, a 2011 study released by VIDA: Women in the Arts revealed that the percentage of stories written by women decreased at publications such as The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Boston Review. In addition, The Guardian’s Kira Cochrane reported that a four-week study showed that men wrote the majority of newspaper articles in top British dailies, as previously reported.
As newsroom staffs continue to dwindle due to industry losses, the issue of representation of minorities and women in the newsroom appears to have moved to the sidelines. With the release of this and other studies, however, news editors will hopefully be reminded of the importance of editorial diversity not just in terms of numbers, but for the sake of their content and audiences.