July 29, 2014

Minority employees accounted for a little more than 13 percent newsrooms in 2013, according to a new survey by the American Society of News Editors. That’s a percentage point higher than last year’s census, which suggested diversity efforts had stagnated at the newsrooms ASNE surveys, which include many daily newspapers and this year more than 100 online-only publications.

The percentage of minority employees in this year’s census, 13.34, is “nearly as high as the record of 13.73 percent in 2006,” ASNE says. The industry added about 200 more full-time minority employees in 2013. That gain is a rare, if small, bit of good news in an otherwise somber report, which, as my coworker Rick Edmonds writes, shows an industry-wide loss of 1,300 jobs.

Other figures in ASNE’s report put the rise in the number of minority-held positions in perspective: Only 15 percent of the news organizations surveyed had a person of color among their top three editors (the U.S. Census says non-whites make up about 37 percent of the U.S.’ total population). By contrast, 63 percent of the publications in ASNE’s survey had at least one woman in their top three edit spots.

Some big names were missing from the 105 digital or digitally focused publications that took the survey. Neither BuzzFeed, Gawker Media, Politico nor The Huffington Post participated.

BuzzFeed spokesperson Ashley McCollum said that as far as she was able to tell, her organization wasn’t approached. Gawker Media Editorial Director Joel Johnson said he hadn’t seen anything about the survey, either. Politico spokesperson Olivia Petersen said ASNE didn’t approach Politico — an organization that does not fit neatly into a digital/non-digital taxonomy — and that “we don’t share information about our personnel.” Last year, The Huffington Post passed on to Poynter a message from AOL’s Office of the General Counsel saying “It is our company policy not to share this type of personal information about employees outside of the company.”

Slate, which promoted Julia Turner to its top editorial job this year, did share: It had almost 17 percent minority employment in 2013. ProPublica had a little more than 20 percent, and the Center for Investigative Reporting’s had about 37 percent. The music publication Pitchfork had about 14 percent minority employment, and the conservative publication The Daily Caller had 6.7 percent.

Altogether, minorities made up about 20 percent of employment at non-dead-tree organizations, ASNE says. Pew estimated earlier this year that there are about 5,000 full-time journalism jobs among 468 digital outlets.

How about at newspapers?

The New York Times’ share of minority employment grew from 18.9 to 19.5 percent. “The industry at large is continuing to grapple with the under-representation of minorities in our newsrooms and it’s good news that ASNE’s census reports an increase this year,” Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy said. “We’re pleased that The New York Times is ahead of the industry figures; we’ve worked hard to get there and continued improvement remains a priority for us.”

The Los Angeles Times participated in this year’s census after taking last year off. It showed 21.4 percent minority employment in 2013. The Houston Chronicle was at about 20 percent. USA Today was at 17.6 percent, the Chicago Tribune was at 17.7 percent and the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times was at 13.8 percent.

McClatchy’s Miami Herald had about 38 percent minority employment, among the higher figures for the bigger dailies that participated (Tribune’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel had 36 percent). McClatchy vice president for news Anders Gyllenhaal was traveling and couldn’t comment for this story, but at a D.C. event last month, Gyllenhaal noted that of the company’s 29 newspapers, 13 were edited by women. At the time he said the company decided to wait to fill top spots at some of its newspapers because it was disappointed by the lack of diversity among candidates.

The Washington Post’s percentage rose from 23.2 to 27.8, due in part to an expansion in personnel courtesy of new owner Jeff Bezos. “This year, we are fortunate enough to be in the position of hiring many talented journalists and we’re pleased that we are hiring women and journalists of color at higher rates than we have in the past,” said Post senior editor in Tracy Grant, who overseas newsroom recruitment and development.

“But we are not hiring them because they are women or journalists of color,” Grant said. “We are hiring them because they are exceptional journalists who will be part of shaping the journalism of The Washington Post for the next generation of readers.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
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