Academia isn't reflecting society, students or the news profession.
Tony Cox, who spent 31 years as a reporter and anchor in Los Angeles, thought he had found a comfortable second career when the president of a college in Southern California asked him out to lunch.
Tired of the daily grind in the newsroom, Cox wanted to go next into teaching broadcast journalism - preferably at an urban university with a large number of Hispanics and African-Americans.
"I had lunch with the president of a local college here, a brother whom I had known," Cox said. "He was going on and on about how perfect I would be for a university: I was an African-American, a male on top of that. I had significant experience in a big market and nationally. I had a master's degree from UCLA, a respected institution nationwide and had been on the board of the National Association of Black Journalists. I was feeling good and ready to enter the classroom."
The president, though, was leaving his post soon. He gave Cox the telephone number of his successor.
"He made it seem like: No problem. Just call."
Cox called. He called again. His calls weren't returned. Finally, he picked up an application and sent it in. "I was devastated when I was turned down. The explanation was that my master's degree wasn't in journalism. It was in theater," Cox said.
He didn't give up, though. He sought out two more Southern California colleges and, in August, he will begin work as an assistant professor in the broadcast journalism program at California State University-Los Angeles.
Cox is one of the lucky few, based on reports about minority faculty and interviews with several of them. Only 15 percent of professors teaching in journalism and mass communication programs are minorities, according to a 2001 report by the University of Georgia's journalism school.
While that beats the percentage for the newspaper industry (11.6 percent), it is off the mark when judged by several other key indicators: 24.6 percent of television news personnel are minorities, according to the latest survey by the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) and Ball State University; about 25 percent of U.S. residents are minorities, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau reports; and, perhaps the most comparable figure, about 27 percent of students in journalism and mass communication programs are minorities.
Further, no systematic plan exists to recruit minority teachers for all of roughly 400 journalism and mass communication programs in the U.S. College journalism professors are recruited the old-fashioned way: They learn of an opening - either through word-ofmouth or a job announcement - and apply. They attend the annual convention of the leading professional group, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), and hope to get an interview.
That's different from the recruiting methods used by the newspaper and broadcast news industries. In the larger news outlets, a senior editor or producer is responsible for recruiting talent and often attends several job fairs throughout the year. There are several journalism job sites available on the World Wide Web.
Further, the news industry announces each year how well it is doing, or not doing, in increasing the number of minorities in newsrooms. For newspapers, the American Society of Newspaper Editors asks all daily newspapers to report its percentage of minority employees and then makes the newspaper's accounting available online. In contrast, the major report on faculty diversity is updated every three years, and the number of minorities at each institution is not displayed. The last update, in 2001, provided a 10-year analysis that covered from 1989-1998.
That report, directed by Georgia journalism professor Lee Becker, painted a bleak picture: If hiring continues at its current rate, it will be 2035 before the percentage of journalism school teachers in journalism equals the percentage of minority students in the field. …