Despite a focus on diversity, still a ways to go

By Nick Sullivan

Stanford University

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Diversity is one of the themes this year at the annual ASNE-APME conference, but the data suggests there is still a ways to go.

“It needs a lot more work,” said Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors when asked about the state of diversity in journalism. “The industry has an issue, and I think we as organizations have an even greater issue and more responsibility to try to think about programs we can put together that can help diversify newsrooms.”

Newsrooms across the country lag behind population national figures when it comes to proportions of women and ethnic minorities, according to a yearly census conducted by ASNE. The census, which collects data from nearly 1,400 daily newspapers, found that minorities in 2015 made up just less than 13 percent of all newsroom employees. Nationally, minorities make up 37 percent of the United States population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The lack of diversity is also evident when it comes to gender. Women make up just over 37 percent of newsroom employees, and fewer than two out of three news organizations have even one woman among the top three editors, according to ASNE census data.

“The gender imbalance is really pronounced in leadership,” said Robyn Tomlin, convention chair for the conference and managing editor of The Dallas Morning News. “There is something happening between that hiring point and the point where women advance up into leadership positions.”

Not only are these numbers low, they also aren’t improving. The percentage of women essentially hasn’t changed since ASNE began tracking that statistic in 1999, and the percentage of minorities has actually slightly decreased over the last decade.

It’s not only newsrooms that struggle with diversity. Journalism conferences also struggle to get a diverse set of panelists. Conference organizers said they estimate about one in four of the panelists at this year’s ASNE conference are ethnic minorities, and around 39 percent are women.

“We made a concerted effort to make sure at every point along the way when we were talking about potential panelists that we had a diverse and representative group,” Tomlin said.

“It was important to us to get a diverse group of speakers, but it was a little bit of a challenge at the beginning,” added Dawn Garcia, the managing director of the JSK Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University, who was involved in organizing the conference. “But I think it got there. I think it’s a pretty diverse lineup.”

There has clearly been effort, but Horvit puts it best when it comes to describing diversity in journalism.

“There’s a long, long way to go.”

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