Alarming Decline of Diversity in Newsrooms

Annette John-Hall, Philly, August 7, 2011

A high-level editor once told me that of all the journalistic values he thought were critical to running a top-notch newsroom, racial diversity ranked, like, fifth on his list.

For him, the more traditional principles of “excellence,” “truth,” and “integrity” took precedence.

Frankly, I was shocked–not because of his honesty, but because of his ignorance. There can be no excellence, truth, or integrity in covering the news without a diverse newsroom.

That’s what the Kerner Commission concluded in 1968 when, as the nation moved toward “two separate societies–one black and the other white,” it warned that “the journalists’ profession has been shockingly backward in seeking out, hiring, training, and promoting Negroes. . . . ”

Forty-three years later, the industry faces the same uphill battle in identifying, hiring, and retaining minority journalists. Certainly, there was no shortage of discussions on the topic among members of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), which wrapped up its annual conference this weekend in Philadelphia.

One obvious question came up over and over again:

At a time when news industries continue to downsize and, in fact, are struggling to survive, how can they possibly keep diversity a priority?

A look at the numbers says they haven’t. According to the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), the percentage of minorities in newspaper newsrooms slipped for the third straight year, to 12.79 percent. Even more alarming was that 441 newspapers reported zero minorities on their full-time staffs.

On the broadcast side, NABJ and the NAACP have blasted CNN for having all white anchors and hosts on its evening prime-time programming. It’s no secret that most minority anchors are relegated to weekends on national broadcasts.

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Diversity still matters. And while the media have a responsibility to cover the news with excellence, accuracy, and integrity, they also have an obligation to report with cultural authority if they want to stay relevant to the communities they cover–and to themselves.

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  • FtR

    Diversity is a code word for ethnic cleansing. The people who espouse it are genocidists.

    Any reason they give for diversity other than its real reason, genocide, is a smokescreen.

  • Dave

    Frankly, I was shocked—not because of his honesty, but because of his ignorance. There can be no excellence, truth, or integrity in covering the news without a diverse newsroom.

    I agree with the first sentence. It’s very ignorant to include “diversity” on any list of core values; as it more often than not leads to friction, jealousy, and strife. As a younger man, I shared that ignorance, but through life experiences I am now cured. How many lawsuits have occurred in newsrooms over some perceived racial slight?

    And why must Newsrooms bend over backwards to hire and retain minority journalists? Is it their fault that the pool of qualified minority candidates is small? Shouldn’t minority candidates have to prove themselves like anyone else?

    And this should be a rhetorical question:

    At a time when news industries continue to downsize and, in fact, are struggling to survive, how can they possibly keep diversity a priority?

    They can’t. “Diversity” shouldn’t even be a priority during profitable periods let alone periods when you are struggling to survive. The multi-cults, backed by the courts and the DOJ, would rather see American business bankrupt and the American middle-class decimated than, God forbid, the clock turn back on minority progress. If Blacks can’t have jobs, no one should have a job.

  • CDE

    Maybe they should send some black journalists to cover all the black mobs around the country, expose the black on white violence disparity, and get to the bottom of why England is burning.

  • Ronald

    According to the article, Annette John-Hall is “shocked” to learn their are still a few ethical journalists who believe “the more traditional principles of “excellence,” “truth,” and “integrity”” should take precedence over “news” room diversity. Should the views of John-Hall come as a surprise?

    Source: http://goo.gl/9XBNP

    Ronald

  • Tim in Indiana

    Frankly, I was shocked—not because of his honesty, but because of his ignorance. There can be no excellence, truth, or integrity in covering the news without a diverse newsroom.

    At a time when news industries continue to downsize and, in fact, are struggling to survive, how can they possibly keep diversity a priority? A look at the numbers says they haven’t.

    Um…duh…if “diversity” is really the key to “excellence,” then wouldn’t those newsrooms that have the most “diverse” staff be the ones that are best able to compete? Instead, “diversity” becomes a liability when a newsroom is on the ropes and is most likely to be cut.

    Of course, logic and reason count for little when you’re dealing with a religious dogma.

    The delicious irony of all this is that the news media are some of the most leftist entities in the country, and even they can’t get their precious “diversity” to work.

  • Anonymous

    yet these newsrooms are as liberal as ever, a case of “do as i say, not as i do?”

  • Anon

    Diversity suffers in the newsroom because it’s hard to find a black person who can both think and write to a high standard. When half the blacks in Detroit are functionally illiterate, where the heck do they think the minority writers are going to come from?

  • OnGuard

    Remember the Jason Blair scandal several years ago which brought down the top 2 men at the New York Times ( and was unprecedented)? When asked what was the priority in the newsroom, Salzberger said “Diversity”, which is probably why Blair was hired. He was black, didn’t have a journalism degree, and fabricated dozens of stories run in the NY Times! Shouldn’t accuracy and objectivity be the priorities? Of course, but then, that’s not politically-correct.

  • Berin Rassouid

    Blacks are hopelessly racist and thus are incapable of delivering news objectively. None would offer critical analysis of black behavior but their loud mouths are quick to condemn whites. If you were to test them by describing a fictious incident without racial description, you’d get honest judgmdent. But include race and the judgment will invariably find Black is Right; White is wrong. Remember, one who supports another solely because of race is RACIST, every bit as much as one who opposes another because of race. Voting patterns prove blacks are the most racist of all.

  • Anonymous

    “Frankly, I was shocked—not because of his honesty, but because of his ignorance. There can be no excellence, truth, or integrity in covering the news without a diverse newsroom.”

    Is he saying whites can’t cover blacks, and blacks can’t cover whites because truth will be compromised? That there are different views that have no commonality? That white views are invalid to the black way-of-thinking? That all people are not created equal, but in different ways that requires black-on-black coverage?

  • Anonymous

    “That’s what the Kerner Commission concluded in 1968 when, as the nation moved toward “two separate societies—one black and the other white,” it warned that “the journalists’ profession has been shockingly backward in seeking out, hiring, training, and promoting Negroes… .”

    What is it with these guys harkening back to 1968? Ahem that was two generations ago. Try looking forward. And why haven’t blacks been able to build successful publishing organizations beyond entertainment? There is plenty of money for black, or any color, media ventures. Perhaps your audience doesn’t respond to the economic incentives to either buy the paper or patronize the advertisers? Perhaps the economics are such that buying customers don’t really care about exclusively black news with a black political agenda. Even the New York Times is cutting back on that stuff. Check out the most viewed stories, and despite the NYT promoting racial discord on the front pages, the readership doesn’t read it.

  • Anonymous

    Of course this is a black berating white story. I don’t hear of blacks complaining that the Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, or Italian newspapers in the US don’t hire enough blacks. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

    Take a look at Harlem’s Amsterdam News http://www.amsterdamnews.com/. Would you pay money to read this?

  • Antidote

    There aren’t enough black high fashion models

    There aren’t enough black Marines

    There aren’t enough blacks on Madison Avenue

    There aren’t enough blacks in the Coast Guard

    There aren’t enough black anchors

    There aren’t enough blacks in newsrooms

    There aren’t enough blacks in the diplomatic corps

    There are simply too many Whites! Can’t anything be done!?

  • Soprano Fan

    The writer puts stock in the Kerner Commission report like it was some kind of holy scripture, or something. Kerner, the governor of Illinois, wound up going to jail on income tax evasion charges. His Commission’s report blamed everyone except the rioters for the urban riots.

    The writer says that “only 12.79 percent of newsroom workers are black”. Geez, Bantus are 13% of the total population in the USA to begin with – how is that underrepresentation? This writer would want to see 90% blacks in the newsroom.

    How many Caucasian anchors are there on BET?

    I thought so.

  • Anonymous

    I sure see lots of blacks on news programs and especially entertainment programs where they are almost always coupled with an attractive blonde. The sexual contest is just under the surface. I was monitoring CNN when the first black morning newsmen came aboard. Their flirtatious style with the always attractive and usually blonde newswomen, even to the point of constantly initiating physical contract, (high-fives, or touching an arm or thigh). They were constantly attempting to look cute, make a joke and flash flirty smiles at the camera. I haven’t looked lately, but I think they were switched out. Blacks just can’t behave for long and even less long when a white woman is near.

  • john

    Interesting how the term diversity in the newsroom means only diversity in the number of ethnic and racial minorities are represented.

    It certainly doesn’t mean in any way that there should be any diversity in the solid wall of liberal opinion offered by “news casters.” Perish the thought.

  • Mr.White

    “Frankly, I was shocked—not because of his honesty, but because of his ignorance. There can be no excellence, truth, or integrity in covering the news without a diverse newsroom.”

    ————————————————————

    If in fact diversity brought “truth, excellence, and integrity” to covering the news, (or any profession for that matter) wouldn’t employers be lining up to get their quota of diversified candidates in order to thrive in our capitalistic society?

    Or perhaps the exact opposite is in fact true. In the real world, “diversity” brings strife, mediocrity, and dishonesty to all places implemented!

  • Jack

    “Diversity still matters.”

    Yeah, it still matters just like the national debt matters, another millstone around the neck of decent people.

    Diversity is nothing but excuse for incompetence.

    “…they also have an obligation to report with cultural authority…”

    They have no obligation whatsoever to do that.

  • sedonaman

    “There is more truth printed on the label of a can of tomatoes than in your average newspaper.” — Ben Hecht, from his biography, “Gaily, Gaily”, commenting on what he observed as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, c. 1910, at a time way before the Truth in Labeling Act.

  • Anonymous

    A key element of the melting away of diversity in the newsroom is the melting away of employees who are willing to put in a honest, hard day’s work and who are capable of feeling good about such meaningful sacrifice–getting the story is a hungry hunter’s mission–not the mission of one who nurtures and loves spoon feeding.

  • Anonymous