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News & Press: NABJ News

Black journalists' ranks cut by nearly 1,000 in past decade

Wednesday, April 4, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Aprill Turner
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NABJ issues challenge, offers assistance to newsroom leaders committed to diversity

 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 organizations.

Since 2002, African American journalists have lost newsroom 993 jobs – more than any other group of minorities, including Hispanic, Asian and Native American.

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 referenced ideals.

"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 Haines.

"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 achieve.”

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 Buffalo News.

"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 organizations.

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.



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