The Webster University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists planned its panel, “Opportunities and Challenges for Minority Media Communicators” before the Trayvon Martin story exploded, and before the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) published the latest numbers about diversity in newspaper and online newsrooms.
Nevertheless, the timing was fortuitous for a discussion of all of the above and more. I was part of a panel that also featured two St. Louis journalism greats. Bernie Hayes is radio newsman and a pioneer among black journalists in the region; for one thing, he was the first black news director at KWMU-FM (St. Louis Public Radio). Don Corrigan is editor in chief and co-publisher of the Webster-Kirkwood Times and South County Times newspapers. Both also teach at Webster University. (A third panelist, Darin Slyman of the St. Louis Vital Voice, couldn’t make it).
In preparation for the panel, I pulled together a few items that illustrate just where things stand in terms of newsroom diversity (see below). The picture isn’t pretty.
After working for a number of American news organizations over the course of my career–and teaching journalism, too–my sense is that “minorities” (I wish we could come up with a better word) still seek news jobs, secure those jobs, and work at those jobs for a time. But, somewhere along the line they move on; they generally don’t break into the ranks of management. Of course there are exceptions, but shouldn’t we be beyond “exceptions” by now?
A few years ago I got to thinking about how a news organization might make diversity a more integral part of operations. I came up with “The Four Pillars of Diversity,” having in mind a television newsroom. There’s an audio version at RTDNA.org as well.
- ASNE: Total and minority newsroom employment declines in 2011 but loss continues to stabilize (includes tables showing data from newspapers and online media)
- NABJ 2011 Diversity Census: An Examination of Television Newsroom Management (includes numbers for individual broadcast networks and ownership groups)
- RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey finds mixed news for women and minorities in TV/Radio news