America Is Diverse. Why Not Newsrooms?

America Is Diverse. Why Not Newsrooms?


Newsroom and television management opportunities remain “bleak” for journalists of color, according to a report released by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) last week.

The Television Newsroom Management Diversity Census (which is in its fifth year) found that people of color hold 12 percent of managerial positions at stations owned by ABC, Allbritton Communications, Belo Corporation, CBS, Cox Media Group, Fox Television Stations, Gannett, Hearst, Journal Broadcast and more. CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and CNN have a 34 percent rate of minority newsroom managers and executives.

These numbers demonstrate a need for parity, or at least improvement, as the United States becomes increasingly of color. Census data revealed that people of color compose about 35 percent of the population and are projected to be the United States’ majority by 2042. University of Michigan research professor William Frey told NPR that the US child population could be majority of-color by 2020.

These demographic shifts mean that monolithic presentations of the news cannot suffice. Diversity brings value to the news process. Employing people of different races, ethnicities, gender identification, socioeconomic statuses, religious affiliations and political ideologies creates a more colorful pool from which to teach and learn.

As then appellate judge Sonia Sotomayor alluded to the richness of her life as a Latina in a 2001 speech for the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, welcoming and considering various perspectives creates a more informed and liberated society.

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” she said.

In a country as racial and xenophobic as the United States, the possibility of more black, brown and tan faces in the media and unfamiliar lilts on airwaves will freak out the fringe.

Even so, people who approach diversity questions with discomfort should realize that diverse story-finders and storytellers increase the odds that their stories get told. It also increases the likelihood that stories that they need to be aware of come to light.

Journalism includes inverted pyramidal presentations of stories, which means that the most important points should be at the top. Journalism should not create or reinforce a pyramidal structure of prevailing systems that keeps only certain groups at the top.

Hence the need for studies and reports on media representation.

“These reports highlight the urgent need for news organizations to go further to make newsrooms inclusive, and to clearly demonstrate that they truly value diversity in the workplace,” NABJ President Gregory Lee Jr. said in a press release.

The American Society of Newsroom Editors (ASNE), a nonprofit that promotes fair journalism, also calls attention to homogenized newsrooms.

According to ASNE, “To cover communities fully, to carry out their role in a democracy, and to succeed in the marketplace, the nation’s newsrooms must reflect the racial diversity of American society by 2025 or sooner…”

The statement continued.

“The newsroom must be a place in which all employees contribute their full potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or other defining characteristic.”