Newsroom diversity struggles to catch up to American diversity

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This year at the Online News Association in New Orleans, eight sessions were dedicated to discussing the necessity of having a diverse newsroom staff. 

The ONA Newsroom wanted to examine the numbers: while the country’s diverse population has continued to rise, that has not been reflected in newsrooms. 

In the last three years, numbers have risen and continue to grow, according to the American Society of News Editors’ annual survey on newsroom diversity. Even if newsrooms diversify at current rates they will not reflect 2019’s demographics by 2045, when minorities are projected to become the majority. 

 

The numbers are also based on participation by newsrooms — and the response to this year’s survey was the lowest ever.

In terms of having a diverse staff and leadership, online news organizations were slightly better than traditional newsrooms that have print as their foundation. 

According to the survey data, the Minneapolis Star Tribune most closely reflects the community it covers, which is 83% white. 

 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which covers Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties in Florida, has made some of the biggest strides to diversify its newsroom since 2001, when 20% of its staff were minorities. Today, 35% of the newsroom come from minority groups. But that still doesn’t represent these counties, where 69% of the population are minorities. 

The Detroit News was one of the lowest performing newsrooms in the survey in terms of newsroom diversity versus the coverage area. While 89% of the coverage area is minorities, only about 30% of newsroom staffers are minorities.

The survey also found that newsrooms that have a diverse leadership tend to have more of a racially diverse staff. These three newsrooms have leadership that are not as diverse as their staff. 

 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included incorrect data. 

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