New ASNE figures show percentage of minorities in newspaper newsrooms continues to decline

Reynolds Journalism Institute | ASNE

The number of minorities in the U.S. is growing, but in newspaper newsrooms it continues to creep downward.

New ASNE figures show that the percentage of minorities in newsrooms is now 12.32 percent. The share has dropped about a percentage point since ASNE's 2010 census.

Minority newsroom employment has no doubt increased since ASNE started its survey in 1978, when the percentage of minorities in newsrooms was just below 4 percent. The percentage peaked during ASNE's 2006 census (at 13.73 percent), but it has fallen almost every year since.

Figures from the past three years show that the decline of minorities has been significantly higher compared to the overall decline of newsroom employees.

  • 2010 figures show the number of minorities working at daily newspapers declined by 12.7 percent, compared to an overall newsroom decline of 11.13 percent.
  • 2011 figures show the number of minorities declined by 3.64 percent, compared to a .24 percent gain overall.
  • 2012 figures show that overall newsroom employment has dropped 2.4 percent, from 41,600 to 40,600. But among minorities, the decrease has been more than twice as large: 5.7 percent, from 5,300 to 5,000. During that time, nearly one out of three newsroom job cuts have affected minorities.

Tracking diversity numbers in newsrooms

About 71 percent of 1,386 daily newspapers responded to ASNE's survey -- the highest level of participation in the census' history. The number of online-only news organizations participating in this year's census has nearly tripled -- from 27 to 75 -- since 2010. ASNE does not include online-only news organizations as part of its overall results because the number of participants is so small.

The 75 that responded reported 596 jobs, 16.4 percent of which are held by minorities. That is significantly higher than the 12.32 percent reported in newspaper newsrooms. Yahoo, AOL/Patch, Politico and The Huffington Post are among the sites that have chosen not to participate in the survey. (Several of these news organizations have said in the past that it's against their policy to disclose diversity information.)

"We were in conversation with some of the big ones, and it seemed we were getting close, but in the end they didn't (submit numbers)," said Richard Karpel, executive director of ASNE, at the convention.

Gregory Lee, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, told me he’d like to see ASNE break down the numbers by newsroom department so it’s easier to see the representation of minorities covering sports, business, politics, etc.

As an example, he referred to a recent Associated Press Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card study, which broke down the percentage of minorities working in sports departments. It offered some revealing statistics, including this one: “Of all APSE sports editors, 97 percent were white, while 90.6 percent were white males.”

Making the case for diversity

As more news organizations let go of staffers in the face of budget cuts and changes in ownership, they've no doubt lost journalists of color. In its latest round of cuts, for instance, Philadelphia Daily News photojournalist Sarah Glover took a buyout; she was the sole woman of color on the photo staff of the News and the Inquirer.

In a recent interview, Glover made the case for newsroom diversity: “All news organizations should have staffs that represent the communities they serve. It is quite frankly a no-brainer, and a good business decision. I’m glad to see representation among women to be good, but ethnic minority representation is abysmal.”

Michele Salcedo, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said she's disturbed by the lack of Hispanic representation in newsrooms.

“We lost a generation of journalists who worked hard, set their sites on promotions, got them and were and continue to be among those who are laid off. We are, in essence, back to rolling the rock back up the hill in order to get well-qualified Latinos into the newsroom and more importantly promoted into decision-making positions,” Salcedo said via email. “This comes at a time when, unfortunately, diversity seems to be an afterthought, rather than part of a business plan that addresses the rapidly changing demographics in the country.”

Getting upper management involved

Ronnie Agnew, chairman of ASNE's diversity committee, said at the convention, "Our (minority) numbers are decreasing. I am beyond disappointed." ASNE figures show that nearly 1,000 newsroom jobs for African Americans were eliminated in the last 10 years -- a decline of about one-third. Agnew, former executive editor of the (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger, said, "We need to re-engage the CEOs and make the case that diversity is a business imperative."

NABJ's Lee said by phone that it’s easy for newsroom leaders to say they want to make diversity a priority, but harder to actually follow through.

“I know the economy is bad and a lot of companies are cutting back recruiters, but it does not excuse them from allowing the numbers to keep creeping downward,” Lee said. “Who's going to be accountable for this drop? We know the numbers are going down, we see it in our newsroom, but what are editors doing about it? Where’s the action behind fixing this problem?”

Rick Edmonds contributed to this report.

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website,, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon