2001 census

ASNE Census Finds Newsrooms Less Diverse: Increased Hiring of Minorities Blunted by Departure Rate

Posted 4/3/2001 12:00:00 AM

WASHINGTON — The number of minority journalists working at daily newspapersfell from 11.85 percent to 11.64 percent in the past year even though newsroomshired more first full-time minority professionals in 2000 than in any of thepast 10 years.

The overall decline in minority numbers was the first in the 23 years The AmericanSociety of Newspaper Editors has conducted its annual census of newsroom employment.The principal reason for the decline was the departure from the business ofan unusually large number of minority journalists.

The figures are seen as both a disappointment and a challenge by ASNE’s leadership,which in the past year has launched major initiatives to increase flow of talentedminorities into the journalism pipeline.

ASNE recognized last year that recruitment to the profession was not enoughwhen it adopted the retention benchmark it will report annually. In addition,ASNE focused this year’s diversity convention program on retention.

On Monday, the ASNE board launched a multiyear initiative to study newsroommanagement and practices as they relate to retention. The first step will beto conduct quantitative research this year to establish whether or not certainactions and behaviors by top and middle managers can help create a working environmentmore conducive to attracting and retaining minorities.

Results of the research will be reported to next year’s convention and willbe the basis for development of a plan to help newspapers increase retentionof minorities.

ASNE president Rich Oppel, editor of the Austin American-Statesman, said theresults of this year’s census were “simply not acceptable.” He joined CharlotteHall, managing editor at Newsday and chair of the ASNE Diversity Committee,in the call for vigorous attention on all fronts, particularly retention.

Hall said: “Now we must direct our energies to making newsrooms places wherejournalists of color can flourish, where they feel welcome, where they can buildrewarding careers.”

Editors hired nearly 600 minority journalists into their first full-time newsroomjob in 2000, the fourth highest number of new hires since ASNE started keepingthis number and highest since the 1991 census. But at year’s end, 698 minorityjournalists had departed newspaper jobs.

Other major census details:

  • Overall newsroom employment went up by 154 and now stands at 56,393.
  • The total number of minorities fell from 6,665 to 6,563 because of the departures.
  • The minority retention rate plunged from 96 percent last year to 90 percent this year. The nonminority rate went from 96 to 95 percent.
  • The major loss of minorities came at newspapers from 5,000 to 50,000 circulation.
  • Asian American, African American, Hispanic and Native American newsroom presence each declined slightly.

Oppel was chagrined that the declines came “despite the fact that ASNE workedsuccessfully in this past year to begin building a pipeline into the professionfor people of color. In partnership with the Knight Foundation, we launchedthe High School Journalism Project. In partnership with the Freedom Forum andAPME, we also launched an initiative to place 50 people of color into smallnewspapers.”

He emphasized that the payoff for those projects is long range but in sight.The partnership with Freedom Forum is already placing journalists in newsroomsat newspapers with less than 75,000 circulation and response is strong fromeditors and prospective journalists seeking to participate.

The High School project will train its first group of more than 200 high school journalism teachers and advisors in for-credit courses at six universities thissummer. “Many of the teachers come from districts with high minority populationswhere we believe will begin to instill excitement about journalism as a career,”Oppel said.

Detailed findings of the 2001 newsroom employment survey:

  • Racial/ethnic groups: This is a breakdown of newsroom staffs by minority group:

  Asian Americans African Americans Hispanics Native Americans
2001 2.30 (1,299) 5.23 (2,951) 3.66 (2,064) 0.44 (249)
2000 2.35 (1,321) 5.31 (2,984) 3.68 (2,068) 0.52 (292)


  • Internships: The number of minority interns increased but the percent of minority interns continued its downward trend and now stands at 29.0 percent down from 31.4 percent.
  • Newspapers with no minorities: The number of newspapers with no minorities increased, halting a steady decline. Last year, 368 papers responded that they had no minorities, or 39 percent of newspapers, with no minorities. This year: 422 newspapers, 44 percent.
  • Supervisors: Nineteen percent of all minorities were supervisors, about the same percentages as last year. Overall, minorities account for nine percent of the total number of supervisors in newsrooms.
  • Where do minorities work: Nearly two-thirds of all minority journalists work at papers with circulations exceeding 100,000.

Highlights from the survey of women

Meanwhile the percentage of women in daily newsrooms rose slightly from 37.12to 37.35. Women represented 34 percent of newsroom supervisors, the same percentageas last year. Other related survey findings:

  • Women on daily newspaper staffs total 21,062 an increase of about 186. Of these, 3,008, or 14.28 percent are minorities.
  • Job categories: 22 percent of women are supervisors, 21 percent copy editors, 49 percent reporters and 8 percent photographers. Men: 25 percent are supervisors, 18 percent copy editors, 44 percent reporters and 13 percent photographers.
  • Of the 950 newspapers participating in the survey, only one percent have no women, the same as last year. The newspapers with no women tend to be the very smallest.

ASNE’s Diversity Mission

Increasing diversity in U.S. newspaper newsrooms has been a primary ASNE missionsince 1978. The Society has been an industry leader in helping newspapers betterreflect their communities. It serves as an information clearinghouse and providescareer information to aspiring journalists. The Society sponsors a variety ofinitiatives and projects, including job fairs directed at young journalistsof color and seminars for editors on the changing demographics of the U.S.

ASNE’s initial survey in 1978 revealed that minority journalists comprised4 percent of the total newsroom workforce (1,700 out of 43,000). The surveyis a tool ASNE uses to measure the success of its goal of having the percentageof minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minoritiesin the nation's population by 2025. Currently minorities make up 30 percentof the U.S. population.

Census procedures

For the 2001 ASNE newsroom employment census, 950 of the 1,446 daily newspapersresponded to the survey, representing 65.7 percent of all U.S. dailies. Thecensus is based on employment data reported by daily newspapers.

The survey data are projected to reflect all daily newspapers in the country.Editors participating in the survey agree to publish the percentage of newsroom employees who are minorities. A list of newspapers with their percentages follows the summary and tables.

The data from newspapers that returned the survey are used to project the numbersfor nonresponding newspapers in the same circulation range. An ASNE follow-uptest of nonresponding newspapers found their employment of minorities closelyr esembles newspapers in their circulation categories that respond to the survey.The survey figures reported above are weighted in this way to reflect all dailynewspapers. ASNE has implemented internal monitoring procedures to ensure theconsistency and credibility of the employment data. Moreover, because the surveyprocedures remain constant each year, the ASNE census provides highly reliableyear-to-year comparisons.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors, with 900 members, is an organizationof the main editors of daily newspapers throughout the Americas. Founded in1922, ASNE is active in a number of areas of interest to top editors with prioritieson improving the diversity, readership and credibility of newspapers.