WASHINGTON, DC (APRIL 4, 2012) -- Amid another
annual report that the number of journalists of color continues to decline and
that African American journalists remain the hardest hit, the National
Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) challenges industry leaders to
adopt effective approaches to increase diversity in the nation’s newsrooms.
For years, we observed diversity strategies with incremental
success, but now have entered an era of indefensible backsliding blamed on all
sorts of things – most recently, the economy.
Newsroom executives and managers cannot base
the intensity of their commitment to diversity on the bottom line, said
National Association of Black Journalists President Gregory H. Lee Jr.
who attended the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) meeting in
Washington on Tuesday.
The event is the largest annual gathering of newsroom leaders from
daily newspapers and other news organizations.
In announcing the results of their annual
diversity survey found here, ASNE reported that the number of African American
journalists declined for the fourth consecutive year. African Americans in the
newsroom workforce fell from 4.68 percent in 2011 to 4.65 percent.
Lee and NABJ pose this sincere question: As the nation follows
many communities that have become "minority-majority” and diversity joins
other bottom-line priorities as an increasingly indispensable business
imperative, when does the real commitment begin?
African Americans have been the most negatively impacted by
newsroom cuts in recent years despite NABJ’s strong case for keeping these
talented and qualified professionals working in mainstream media
Since 2002, African American journalists have lost newsroom 993
jobs – more than any other group of minorities, including Hispanic, Asian and
Overall newsroom employment has dropped 2.4 percent since the last
ASNE census, from 41,600 to 40,600. But among minorities, the loss has been
more than double — 5.7 percent — from 5,300 to 5,000. Nearly one out of three
newsroom job cuts removed a journalist of color. And as hiring rebounds, news
organizations continue habits that confirm the old adage: ‘Last hired, first
fired.’ Of the 1,565 journalists who landed jobs in 2011, 1,313 or 84 percent
were white. Minority journalists accounted for just 16 percent of those hired.
Lee, senior assistant sports editor at The Boston Globe, said
the numbers clearly impeach the industry’s stated commitment to one of its most
"A diverse newsroom should be an economic as well as a
moral imperative,” Lee said. "Diversity is a choice, and while it may be a
tough choice for some in challenging economic times, it should be no less
valued as managers consider bottom-line priorities. NABJ members are tired of
seeing these depressing numbers annually. They demand more action about a
problem that has existed for many years.”
Practicing diversity year-round and over the long haul — not only
at conventions or in prosperous financial times — is essential for recruiting
and retaining journalists of color, said NABJ Vice President-Print Errin
"By showing black journalists that their contributions are
an important part of the newsroom in good and bad times, managers are sowing
seeds of goodwill that can pay long-term dividends,” said Haines, a newswoman
at The Associated Press. "Those same journalists can be an organization’s
best assets — or worst liabilities — when it comes to spreading the word for
hiring and increasing diversity that managers have been challenged to
As an overall snapshot of newsrooms, the ASNE census does not show
diversity by departments. However, when the Associated Press Sports Editors
released its bi-annual census in 2011, that report revealed just one African
American sports editor at a metro daily newspaper: Lisa Bell Wilson of the
"Who will be held accountable for that despicable statistic?”
Lee asked. "Is it APSE, is it the APME [Associated Press Media Editors] or
is it ASNE? The industry should be ashamed."
Lee’s message to ASNE and all other mainstream organizations of
newsroom managers is simple: Diversity Works.
As always, NABJ stands ready to be part of the solution. To that
end, NABJ is launching a robust, one-stop job portal this year, accessible by
visiting our website.
Here, recruiters, media managers and others committed to creating
newsrooms that look like the communities they serve can find journalists with
the skills, talent and perspective that will distinguish the coverage of news
NABJ members are encouraged to create online profiles and upload
their resumes and work samples.
NABJ also strongly encourages newsroom
executives and managers to attend its annual convention, June 20-24, 2012, in
New Orleans, to participate in one solution to the state of our industry and
meet black journalists who can help diversify mainstream newsrooms.