Total and minority newsroom employment declines in 2011, but loss continues to stabilize

By RJI on April 4, 2012 1 Comment Research

ASNE contact: Richard Karpel,
CASR contact: Ken Fleming,

ASNE, RJI, Missouri School of Journalism

WASHINGTON, DC (April 4, 2012) Total newsroom employment at daily newspapers declined by 2.4 percent in 2011, while the loss in minority newsroom positions was 5.7 percent, according to a census released today by the American Society of News Editors and the RJI Insight and Survey Center at the Missouri School of Journalism.

ASNE, which has conducted its Newsroom Employment Census of professional full-time journalists since 1978, announced the results on the last day of its annual convention, which is being held this week in Washington, D.C, at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel. This is the first year that the Insight and Survey Center, a unit of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at Missouri, joined forces with ASNE to collect and analyze the data. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation provided all of the funding for the year's census.

Despite this year's loss in newsroom positions, the decline in jobs that began in 2006-07 appears to be stabilizing. The loss this year is not as drastic as the losses between 2007 and 2010.

The decline in minority newsroom employment also appears to be stabilizing. Following a decline of approximately 800 minority newsroom positions in both 2008 and 2009, the total loss over the last two years was 500 jobs. There were slight decreases in the percentage of employees in each minority category in 2011, although the census was revised this year to add a category of "multi-racial." This could account for some of the loss in other categories.

"Clearly, we have more work to do," said Ronnie Agnew, executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting and co-chair of ASNE's 2011-12 Diversity Committee. "While the numbers suggest stabilization, the trend shows that the exodus from this important industry among people of color continues. This is far from just a numbers issue; this is a troubling content issue. The decline will only stop when people in leadership embrace diversity as an essential part of their business."

"I'm glad that the percentages appear to have stabilized, but our industry still falls significantly short of accurately reflecting the population it serves," said Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president of news for the Democrat and Chronicle Media Group of Rochester, N.Y. "As our 'Future of Diversity in the News' report warns, diversity is a business imperative. We must ensure that we cultivate diverse, creative staffs to create content that is relevant to growing communities of color. It's a critical key to our survival."

Across all market sizes, minority newsroom employment is still substantially lower than the percentage of minorities in the markets those newsrooms serve. The second largest category of newspapers, with daily circulation between 250,000 and 500,000, is closet to the overall goal of having minority employment match population. On average, they had a minority workforce of about 20 percent of their total workforce, while they reported that about 30 percent of the population of their circulation areas are comprised of minorities.

The smallest papers -- those below 5,000 circulation -- had an average of 6 percent of their workforce classified as minorities. They reported that the average minority population of their circulation areas was about 18 percent.

Slightly more than three-fifths of all minority journalists work for papers with greater than 100,000 circulation. This percentage has been relatively stable for the last two decades.

The number of online-only news organizations reporting in this year's census has almost tripled since 2010, from 27 to 75. Although the minority percentages at each of these organizations are interesting, the number of online news organization participants is too small for their collective profile to be included in the results mentioned above.

Census procedures

For this latest census, 985 out of 1,386 daily print newspapers responded to the survey, representing 71.1 percent of all U.S. dailies. That was the highest level of participation in the history of the census, exceeding last year's participation level by almost 10 percentage points.

The data from newspapers that returned the survey are used to project the numbers for non-responding newspapers in the same circulation range. An ASNE follow-up test of non-responding newspapers found their employment of minorities closely resembles newspapers in their circulation categories that respond to the survey. The survey figures reported above are weighted in this way to reflect all daily newspapers. RJI Insight and Survey Center implemented internal monitoring procedures to ensure the consistency and credibility of the employment data, including verifying responses that differed significantly from the last census. The procedures used by the RJI Insight and Survey Center mirror those used by ASNE in past years, and because of this constancy, the ASNE census provides highly reliable year-to-year comparisons.

Editors participating in the survey agree to publish the percentage of newsroom employees who are minorities. In 2006, the ASNE Board of Directors also agreed to list the percentage for each minority group at each newspaper. A list of newspapers with their percentages follows the summary and tables.

ASNE's Diversity Mission

Increasing diversity in U.S. newsrooms has been a primary ASNE mission since 1978. ASNE is an industry leader in helping news organizations better reflect their communities. ASNE's initial survey in 1978, when there were more than 1,700 general circulation daily newspapers, revealed that minority journalists comprised 3.95 percent of the total newsroom work force. The survey is a tool ASNE uses to measure the success of its goal of having the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation's population by 2025. According to the U.S. Census, the percentage of minorities in the total U.S. population is nearing 50 percent.

About the American Society of News Editors

ASNE was founded in 1922. It champions fair, principled, high-quality journalism and the protection of First Amendment freedoms. Its other areas of focus are leadership, innovation and diversity. Although historically an organization of the nation's top newspaper editors, it now includes many members from online-only news outlets, broadcast stations, colleges and universities, and media-related foundations and training centers.

About the RJI Insight and Survey Center

RJI Insight and Survey Center is the research arm of The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute housed in the Missouri School of Journalism of the University of Missouri. It provides quality survey research services to news media organizations, government agencies, academic institutions, national foundations, and community organizations.

About the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute works with citizens, journalists and researchers to strengthen democracy through better journalism. RJI seeks out the most exciting new ideas, tests them with real-world experiments, uses social science research to assess their effectiveness and delivers solutions that citizens and journalists can put to use in their own communities. The institute was created with an initial gift of $31 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in 2004.

About the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, it has committed more than $110 million to its National Journalism Initiative in the United States.

About the Missouri School of Journalism

America's first school of journalism was founded at the University of Missouri in 1908. Some of the best journalists in the world have learned their profession through what is known as "the Missouri Method," which provides practical, hands-on training in news media. The School of Journalism also houses the headquarters of other professional organizations, including Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc., the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the National Freedom of Information Coalition, among others.

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This is certainly very

This is certainly very encouraging. Specifically the staff-level (i.e., journalists - ASNE), taking a lead role in striving for better journalism -- and for decades. I do not know of similar organizations and foundations that take these goals seriously in Canada. My three years at Ryerson University in Toronto in the mid-60s strived to get that principal across to my fellow journalist students, and still does with a variety of courses and seminars for all practicing journalists, as others do, for example.

Certainly, after 50 years of working as a journalist here in Canada primarily, however, in the business (so-called 'trade') magazine sector -- and enjoyed every minute of that career -- obviously the impact of the whole online dimension makes it even more critical.

Democracy alone makes it essential. A free press/media keeps democracy alive. So long as the media doesn't abuse its influence, which it does at times on the wrong issues. Accuracy is, of course, one of the critical elements of good journalism. But the competition for readers and revenue, and time pressures, restricts the ability to check on facts, for example.

I still remember having a researcher at the Reader's Digest in Canada speak to our journalist group (Business Press Editors Association) and the extent they go to to verify every fact was an eye opener and made a gret impression on our members. (Unfortunately, our publishers decided not to continue to support their employees involvement in BPEA, although they still continue the annual awards program and host a broad seminar/education program that accompanies it.)

We can all write at great length about this topic. But I just wanted to congratulate the various players listed and all the others, individually and collectively, for their ongoing efforts in this area. The online players are doing a great job of keeping this principle alive. I certainly encourage them to keep up their efforts and hopefuly they will continue to play a significant role in the evolution of our profession and achieve more successes in fairness, accuracy, responsibility, etc. for everyone's sake.


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