The number of minority journalists in daily-newspaper newsrooms increased by a couple of hundred in 2013 even as newsroom employment declined by 3.2 percent, according to the annual census released Tuesday by the American Society of News Editors and the Center for Advanced Social Research.
This year's census also found that 63 percent of the news organizations surveyed have at least one woman among their top three editors. The percent of minority leaders is lower, with 15 percent of participating organizations saying at least one of their top three editors is a person of color. This was the first year the questions about women and minorities in leadership were asked.
Overall, the survey found, there are about 36,700 full-time daily newspaper journalists at nearly 1,400 newspapers in the United States. That's a 1,300-person decrease from 38,000 in 2012. Of those employees, about 4,900, or 13.34 percent, are racial and ethnic minorities. That's up about 200 people, or 1 percentage point, from last year's 4,700 and 12.37 percent. It is nearly as high as the record of 13.73 percent in 2006.
"Producing the employment census each year is a significant effort on the part of ASNE, but as the leaders of America's newsrooms, we feel it's essential to keep this data front and center," said ASNE President David Boardman, dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University. "We remain committed to doing all we can to help our newsrooms, and our news reports, better reflect the diverse nature of the communities we cover."
The Robert R. McCormick Foundation provided the funding for this year's census and has funded the project since the 2012 census. This is the third year that CASR, a unit of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, has joined forces with ASNE to collect and analyze the data.
The percentage of minority journalists has remained between 12 and 14 percent for more than a decade. In 1978, when ASNE launched its Newsroom Employment Census of professional full-time journalists, 3.95 percent were minorities.
"Some editors are doing a better job of recruiting and retaining journalists of color," said Karen Magnuson, editor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and chair of the ASNE Diversity Committee. "You can't grow the numbers without being effective on both fronts.
"Although it's heartening to see the numbers heading in the right direction, we have much more work to do to ensure our newsrooms remain relevant to growing communities of color across the country. We at ASNE pledge to work with other editors to make this report a true turning point for our industry's future."
Although there was an overall decrease in the number of journalists from 2012 to 2013, the largest and smallest newspaper categories experienced small increases. Employees at newspapers with daily circulations of more than 500,000 increased by 5.85 percent. Newspapers with circulations under 10,000 had a 2.78 percent increase. All other circulation categories saw decreases in overall employees, with the biggest drop, 16 percent, among newspapers of circulation 100,000-250,000.
ASNE also surveyed online-only news sites; minorities made up about 20 percent of the workforce of the 105 organizations that responded. The survey also asked about volunteer and part-time employees at those sites. More than half of the sites surveyed (57.5 percent) reported having at least one part-time employee, and almost half (49.5 percent) reported having at least one volunteer contributor. Nearly half of the organizations (43.8 percent) surveyed reported more volunteers and part-time contributors than full-time employees.
Minorities made up nearly one-third of all part-time employees (28.3 percent) and more than one-fourth (25.7 percent) of volunteer contributors.
Although the number of responses to the online-news census survey was larger than in previous years, the census can't accurately project the total number of all journalists in the online news space because of the inability to know just how large the overall population of all online news sites is.
ASNE's goal is to have the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide reflect the percentage of minorities in the nation's population by 2025. Currently, minorities make up 37.02 percent of the U.S. population; that number will increase to 42.39 percent by 2025, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Recognizing that the equity goal, set in 1978 and reaffirmed in 2000, is unlikely to be met, ASNE has launched a number of other initiatives focused on improving diversity in leadership and coverage.
In 2012, the ASNE Diversity Committee created the Minority Leadership Institute to train and develop up-and-coming mid-level newsroom leaders and connect them with a network of established ASNE leaders. After one successful Institute in 2012, ASNE held three Institutes in 2013. This year, there will be three, including one at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, another at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention and the last at the ASNE-APME conference Sept. 15-17 in Chicago.
In addition, the ASNE Diversity Committee has partnered with Journalism That Matters, a nonprofit that convenes conversations to foster collaboration, innovation and action so that a diverse news and information ecosystem can thrive.
"Gone are the days of simply reporting facts from traditional sources cultivated through a newsroom silo," Magnuson said. "Community engagement is essential to build an accurate, meaningful and interactive news report that authentically reflects the diversity of the community."
For this latest census, 965 out of 1,373 daily print newspapers responded to the survey, which represents 70.3 percent of all U.S. dailies. The level of participation has been similar at about 71 percent since the 2012 census, which is about 10 percentage points higher than the years prior to 2012.
This year, for the first time, ASNE surveyed newspaper production hubs in hopes of better reflecting the employment outside of traditional newspaper newsrooms. A total of 17 hubs were surveyed.
The data from newspapers that returned the survey are used to project the numbers for non-responding newspapers in the same circulation range.
The survey figures reported above are weighted in this way to reflect all daily newspapers. CASR implemented internal monitoring procedures to ensure the consistency and credibility of the employment data, including verifying responses that differed significantly from the previous census. The procedures used by CASR mirror those used by ASNE in past years, and because of this constancy, the ASNE census provides highly reliable year-to-year comparisons.
Editors participating in the survey agree to publish the percentage of newsroom employees who are minorities. In 2006, the ASNE Board of Directors also agreed to list the percentage for each minority group at each newspaper. A list of newspapers with their percentages follows the summary and tables.