NEW YORK (AP) – More than a year after the assassination of George Floyd, attention to efforts to diversify newsrooms has proven elusive.
The Journalism Leaders Association, a professional group of journalists, has extended the deadline for responding to its survey on hiring practices in news organizations by two months after expressing disappointment that few are willing to reveal the diversity of their workforce.
According to Meredith Clarke, a professor at Northeastern University conducting the survey, the group hopes to maximize participation from about 5,900 newsrooms nationwide, but has received fewer than 250 responses.
“As a researcher and journalist, I am deeply disappointed that the journalistic industry is not as transparent about its employees as it expects other industries to be transparent about them,” Clark said.
There have been tangible signs of progress in the industry, most notably in the recruitment of several major journalism positions: Kevin Merida, the first black executive editor of The Los Angeles Times.; Kim Godwin and Rashida Jonesboth black women as presidents of ABC News and MSNBC; Katrice Hardy and Monica Richardson, first black executive editors of the Dallas Morning News and Miami Herald; and Daisy Wirasingham, the first woman and first person of color to be appointed President and CEO of The Associated Press.…
Newsrooms across the Gannett network, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC News have publicly released statistics on hiring diversity. There have been widespread assumptions of bias in the past in newspapers such as the Kansas City Star and the Los Angeles Times.
Despite these steps, the overall picture of diversity remains blurry.
First, with the help of its predecessor, the American Society of News Editors, a survey on editorial diversity was conducted in the mid-1970s following a Kerner Commission report that described the absence of black journalists as “shockingly backward.” News organizations have been set a goal by 2000 to have full-time employees that reflect their communities.
“The more diversity you have in your newsroom, the better you will be able to capture what’s going on in your community,” said Miriam Marquez, executive director of the News Leaders Group, which includes executives from newspapers, websites and media groups.
The lack of diversity can be found in many news: according to many critics, the attention given to the story of Gabby Petito, a young woman found dead after traveling around the country with her fiancé, reflects a long-standing concern that journalists are paying more attention to missing white women. than minorities in situations like this.
Despite some improvements, the 2020 target has not been met and concerns about diversity have faded with the industry’s financial collapse over the past two decades. Participation in the annual survey also became unstable, to the point that it was suspended in 2019 after receiving just 293 responses.
Clarke was hired to create a more thorough and up-to-date questionnaire and find ways to increase participation, as internal peer pressure is insufficient.
Work started slowly this year because most of the group’s contact list was initially out of date. The survey required more information than in previous years and took a long time. Some organizations have raised concerns about breaches of employee confidentiality, but organizers insist that this should not be an issue.
“In some cases, people honestly might know if they fill it out that the current state of their news organization is not what they were hoping for,” said Hardy, a newly appointed editor from Dallas. and head of the NLA diversity committee. “I always think it’s a factor in any year, but especially after a year of social unrest.”
Since organizations are asked to voluntarily provide information – as opposed to random sampling – it is also clear that organizations making progress towards their diversity goals are more likely to participate, which raises doubts as to whether the survey will truly reflect what is happening. on.
Nearly 90 of the polls returned are from the Gannett newspapers, which have been particularly aggressive in increasing diversity, and in the last month, editors of all newspapers reported to their readers on progress towards the goals. As a company, Gannett has set a goal for its retail outlets to achieve racial and gender parity with its communities by 2025.
For example, the Republic of Arizona said 38% of their journalists were of color in July, up from 20% five years earlier. The goal is 44%. Executive Editor Greg Burton told readers how reporting and editing responsibilities have changed to cover equity issues.
Hardy said she was not worried that there would be false progress in the news leaders’ report.
“I don’t think any of us like where we are,” she said.
This may be a longer term solution, but the group is considering asking foundations and other news donors to request a survey prior to receiving a grant. The same is true for journalism prizes: if you want to enter the Pulitzer Prize competition, show that you have completed the application.
Clarke said her goal was to get 1,500 responses to create a statistically reliable report. They are unlikely to get to the end of October, by the new date. But George Stanley, president of the NLA, said there is a basic set of contributors, including Gannett, McClatchy, ProPublica, Buzzfeed and The Associated Press – the latter for the first time – that this information is worth publishing.
“I think these participating organizations, with a proven commitment, will have an advantage in hiring, and that will inspire others,” said Stanley, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that the percentage of non-white employees increased from 27% in 2015 to 34% last year. In the Times, Washington Post, and USA Today, the majority of news staff are women.
When Cesar Condé began working as head of news at NBC Universal last year, he publicly set a goal: staff members who are 50% minority and 50% female, although he did not specify deadlines. Since then, an average of 48% of people of color and 63% of women have hired each month. The share of minorities in the division increased from 27% to 30%.
“Hiring minorities is important, but retaining them is also important,” said Doris Truong, director of learning and diversity at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. The news industry is witnessing a generational shift among young employees who are less and less expecting a change in attitudes, she said.
“There was a problem with the pipeline,” said Robert Hernandez, professor at the Annenberg University of Southern California’s School of Communication and Journalism. “We bring up different students. The reality is that they are not hired, kept, promoted. “
Hardy said retention is a real issue, and impatience with promotion is not unique to the younger generation.
She hopes the outstanding leaders hired last year will help bring about real change.
“This is our passion,” she said. “This is what we lived, breathed, discussed and wanted to make a helping hand for many years. Honestly, the money will stay with us. “