On the HBO series “The Newsroom,” a merry band of journalists, led by a crusading news anchor, aims to reinvent cable news.
Check that. Make it: a merry band of primarily white
journalists, as its detractors would quickly point out.
Is that, though, so far afield of the reality in the industry today?
An annual study
released by the American Society of News Editors reveals that the percentage of minority staffers at daily newspapers has declined.
According to The Atlantic
, although minorities make up roughly 37 percent
of the U.S. population, the percentage in the newsroom has waned from a 13.73 percent high in 2006 to 12.37 percent today. Add that the study shows 90 percent of supervisors at participating news organization are white, and the figures become even more striking.
The cause, according to analysts? The Great Recession.
Emphasizing newsroom diversity is nothing new
, but the Great Recession threw those efforts into suspended animation, as an already teetering industry struggled to find steady footing between print and digital. Even amid rampant layoffs, the ax has spared senior employees in favor of terminating recent hires, many of whom have been journalists of color.
Though layoffs or buyouts due to lack of seniority could explain the dearth of minorities, Benet Wilson, chairman of the National Association of Black Journalists digital task force, told The Atlantic
that she thinks the problem stems from the top down—a decline in minority leadership.
Wilson said “a loss of management, a loss of older reporters, a loss of diversity champions” have led to a waning of diversity advocacy around issues of training and community coverage.
Whichever way it’s sliced, the issue of minority representation might point to a larger problem, as The Atlantic
’s Riva Gold reports:
Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, says she has watched journalists of color leave newsrooms at an alarming rate, even as the audience consuming news has grown more diverse. "The news media and the nation are moving in two different directions," she says. "News media is getting whiter as the country is getting browner." Journalists of color "feel their voice is not heard, their story ideas are not validated, and they don't see room for advancement.”
Concerned about a similar lack of diversity in the public relations field, The PRSA Foundation issued a call for proposals
Monday for research investigating why minority groups are under-represented.