Linking Diversity to Dollars
Wenger, Debora R., Nicholson, June O., The Quill
The news audience in America has never been more diverse. But the same cannot be said for news organizations.
Despite more than a quarter-century of emphasis on diversifying staffs and coverage, mainstream newspaper and broadcast companies have not made enough progress in changing the color of newsrooms or in changing approaches to covering a multicultural society.
Soon, that lack of progress may threaten more than the journalistic integrity of news organizations - it may threaten the bottom line.
Most newspaper and broadcast industry leaders, newsroom professionals and educators interviewed by Quill for this story agreed that newsroom cultures and journalism education need to change significantly to adapt to the new demographics of news audiences.
They say companies need to foster innovation and training, create more opportunities for the advancement of women and people of color, and pay closer attention to the concerns and issues that are important to large immigrant populations, for example. Journalism educators must revise curricula to do a better job of preparing future journalists to cover a multiracial and multi-ethnic society, emphasize those who were interviewed.
They also acknowledge the presence of "diversity fatigue" in companies -some are weary of the slow pace of progress. Further, many on the front lines wonder whether newsroom cultures and priorities will change rapidly enough to add large numbers of diverse readers and audience in a nation where almost one-third of the population is nonwhite.
Competition from the ethnic media is already stiff and growing. Some recent data shed light on these issues:
* According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's "The State of the News Media 2004," the ethnic media are one of only three journalism sectors seeing general growth (the others are online and alternative media). While English-language newspapers have seen circulation decline steadily since 1990, Spanish-language newspapers have seen circulation triple to 1.7 million papers a day.
* In 2004, the first national Spanish-language newspaper company, ImpreMedia LLC, based in New York City, was created. The company hopes to robustly compete with large chains such as the Tribune Co. and Knight Ridder. ImpreMedia has announced plans to acquire daily, weekly and monthly newspapers, and other publications and services across the country. Already ImpreMedia owns the leading Hispanic daily in New York, El Diario La Prensa, and owns La Opinion in Los Angeles, the country's largest Spanish-language newspaper. The company is just one indication of the growing presence and influence of ethnic media.
* For 2003-2004, Niclsen Media Research estimates there are 10.67 million Hispanic-American television households in the United States. Not surprisingly, a substantial share of viewing in these homes goes to Spanish-language television.
* The 2004 American Society of Newspaper Editors diversity study showed that only 13 percent of newspapers responding to the survey have reached the ASNE goal of parity between newsroom and community nonwhite percentages. Another 2004 study commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation found that some of the largest newspapers in the nation - among them the New York Times, USA Today and The WaH Street Journal - have lost ground in the past several years in diversifying staffs. Minority daily journalists make up just 12.95 percent of all print newsroom employees.
* In broadcasting, the situation is better, if only a little. In the 2004 Radio and Television News Directors Association/Ball State University Annual Survey, researchers found that minorities made up 21.8 percent of the local television workforce in 2003. That's up from 18.1 percent in 2002. Minority news directors in local television actually increased to 12.5 percent from 6.6 percent in the last survey. However, the researchers indicate that the increases may be attributed to a better response rate for large market stations in this year's survey. …