Posted on August 26, 2021

Struggling News Industry Steps Up Recruitment of Diverse Leaders

Gerry Smith, Bloomberg, August 23, 2021

With much of corporate America targeting greater diversity in its management ranks, news companies are taking steps to close the gap, offering a glimpse at what more representative leadership might bring in an industry that has lagged behind.

The Associated Press appointed the first woman and person of color to helm the news agency this month. In Texas, both the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle named their first Black top editors in July. And in TV, Black women now run the news divisions of ABC News and MSNBC for the first time.

These leaders are taking over to improve coverage and broaden their audiences at a time of crisis in the industry, with about 300 newspapers closing over the past three years and revenue expected to continue to decline. On top of those challenges, some of these editors say they face other obstacles their predecessors didn’t, like a perception they were promoted not because they were qualified, but because of the color of their skin.

Their staffs remain over-represented by White journalists. More than three-fourths (77%) of newsroom employees working at newspapers, broadcasters or digital publishers are White, compared with 65% of U.S. workers overall, according to a 2018 analysis by Pew Research Center.

The newspaper industry’s financial troubles have led to years of layoffs and hiring freezes. That’s long served as an excuse for the failure to hire more Black and Hispanic journalists, despite the benefits they bring in helping outlets better reflect their communities, according to Richard Prince, who runs a website that tracks diversity trends in the news business.


Of the 20 largest U.S. daily newspapers, about half are now led by a woman or a person of color or both, according to Nieman Lab. In 2014, three of the 25 largest newspapers had women as the top editor and 15% of American newspapers had a person of color in one of the top three newsroom roles.


For newspapers, more diversity could be good for business. Nearly half of Black adults say they follow local news “very closely,” a higher percentage than White or Hispanics, Pew found. Hiring more journalists of color helps newsrooms get away from homogeneous perspectives that can limit their audiences, potentially leading to subscriber growth, the thinking goes.

Black journalists understand the concerns of the Black community, said Monica Richardson, who was named executive editor of the Miami Herald in December.

“I know what it’s like to drive by a police officer and have that sense of fear on the highway,” she said.

Richardson has been holding “listening sessions” in the Black community around Miami in an attempt to mend fences. Her takeaway: “We have work to do.”


Many news organizations have pledged to hire more journalists of color. Bloomberg News has initiatives to improve representation in terms of gender, ethnicity and race at every level of the newsroom. Gannett Co. released data last year showing its staffs were often more White than the communities they cover and pledged to make its workforce as diverse as the country by 2025.


The Los Angeles Times published an editorial last year apologizing for its past failures to cover race and vowing to hire more minorities. At the time, the paper said 38% of its journalists were people of color, while Los Angeles County was 48% Latino. {snip} In May the newspaper hired Kevin Merida, who is Black, to lead the newsroom.