Efforts to track diversity in journalism lag behind – The Journal
Despite renewed attention to efforts to diversify hiring in journalism since the murder of George Floyd, the ability to measure real progress is proving elusive
NEW YORK (AP) – More than a year after the George Floyd murder drew attention to newsroom diversification efforts, the ability to measure real progress is proving elusive.
The News Leaders Association, a professional journalism group, extended the deadline for responding to its survey of news agency employment practices by two months, after expressing disappointment at the number of people willing to disclose diversity of their staff.
The group is hoping as much as possible for the participation of around 5,900 newsrooms across the country, but has received fewer than 250 responses, said Meredith Clark, a professor at Northeastern University who is leading the investigation.
“As a researcher and journalist, I am deeply discouraged that the journalism industry is not as transparent about its workforce as it expects other industries to be transparent about theirs,” Clark said.
There have been tangible signs of progress for the industry, including various hires for some major journalism positions: Kevin Merida, the first black editor of the Los Angeles Times; Kim Godwin and Rashida Jones, both black women, as presidents of ABC News and MSNBC; Katrice Hardy and Monica Richardson, the first black editors of the Dallas Morning News and the Miami Herald; and Daisy Veerasingham, the first woman and first person of color to be appointed President and CEO of The Associated Press.
Newsrooms at the Gannett Channel, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC News have publicly revealed statistics on hiring diversity. There have been large-scale calculations of past biases in reporting in newspapers like the Kansas City Star and the Los Angeles Times.
Despite these steps, the overall picture of diversity remains unclear.
First through a precursor, the American Society of News Editors, a newsroom diversity survey has been conducted since the mid-1970s, following a report by the Kerner Commission who called the absence of black journalists “shocking backwards.” News organizations have set themselves the goal of having a workforce that reflects their communities by 2000.
âThe more diversity you have in your newsroom, the better able you are to capture what’s going on in your community,â said Myriam Marquez, executive director of the News Leaders Group, which includes newspaper executives. , websites and media groups.
A lack of diversity can reveal itself in many topical decisions: For many critics, the attention paid to the story of Gabby Petito, a young woman found dead after traveling across the country with her fiancÃ©, reflected a long-standing concern about journalists paying more attention to missing white women than to minorities in similar situations.
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 has also become uneven, to the point of being suspended in 2019 after only 293 responses received.
Clark was hired to create a more comprehensive and modern questionnaire, and to look for ways to get more participation, as internal peer pressure proves insufficient.
This year’s effort got off to a slow start as much of the group’s contact list was initially out of date. The survey requested more information than in previous years, which took a long time. Some organizations have expressed concern about breaches of staff member privacy, but organizers insist this shouldn’t be a problem.
“Frankly, people may know if they fill it out that the current state of their news organization doesn’t look like what they hoped it would look like,” said Hardy, new Dallas editor. . and head of the NLA Diversity Committee. “I still think that’s a factor in any year, but especially after a year of social unrest.”
Since organizations are asked to provide information voluntarily – as opposed to a random sample – it also stands to reason that organizations that are making progress towards achieving diversity goals would be the most likely to participate, which leaves some doubt. as to whether the investigation will really reflect what is happening. to.
Almost 90 of the polls returned are from the Gannett Journals, which have been particularly aggressive in boosting diversity, and last month editors in all of its journals reported to their readers on progress in meeting the goals. Gannett as a company has set 2025 as a goal for its outlets to achieve racial and gender parity with their communities.
As an example, the Arizona Republic said that in July 38% of its reporters were people of color, up from 20% five years earlier. The target is 44%. Editor-in-chief Greg Burton explained to readers how the reporting and editing duties had changed to cover equity issues.
Hardy said she was not worried that the news officers’ report presented false progress.
âI don’t think any of us are happy with where we are,â she said.
This may be a longer-term solution, but the group is considering asking foundations and others that fund news agencies to require their participation in the survey before obtaining a grant. Same thing with journalism prizes: if you want to enter the competition for a Pulitzer, show that you have completed a survey.
Clark said his goal was to have 1,500 responses to produce a statistically sound report. It seems unlikely that they will get there by the end of October, the new deadline. But George Stanley, president of the NLA, said there is a base of participants including Gannett, McClatchy, ProPublica, Buzzfeed and The Associated Press – the latter for the first time – that the information will be worth it. to be published.
“I think these participating organizations, by proving their commitment, will gain a recruiting advantage and that will encourage others,” said Stanley, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The New York Times said earlier this year that the percentage of non-white staff rose from 27% in 2015 to 34% last year. At The Times, Washington Post, and USA Today, the majority of newsroom staff are women.
When he started as chief information officer at NBC Universal last year, Cesar Conde publicly set the goal of a staff of 50% minorities and 50% women, although ‘he gave no deadline. Since then, monthly hires have averaged 48% people of color and 63% women, the network said. The percentage of minorities in the division fell from 27% to 30%.
Hiring minorities is important, but keeping them is important too, said Doris Truong, director of training and diversity at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. The information industry is seeing a generational shift among younger staff who are less willing to wait for attitudes to change, she said.
âThere is a pipeline problem,â said Robert Hernandez, a professor at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. âWe produce diverse students. The reality is, they’re not hired, they’re not hired, they’re not promoted.
Hardy said retention is a real issue and that impatience for advancement isn’t unique to a younger generation.
She hopes the hires of prominent leaders over the past year will help spark real change.
âIt’s a passion we have,â she says. âThis is something that we have lived, breathed and discussed and that we wanted to help over the years. The money stops with us, frankly.