March 22, 2005

UNITY: Journalists of Color is challenging each of the 743 members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) -- some 265 of who will be gathered this week for ASNE's annual conference -- to take bold action in diversifying their newsrooms.

In its annual newspaper newsroom survey, ASNE announced that there are 7,267 journalists of color in 2005, compared to 7,016 in 2004. Journalists of color represent only 13.42 percent of the newsroom workforce in 2005, up slightly from the 12.95 percent the year before. Similarly, the percentage of journalists of color in supervisory positions in newspaper newsrooms continues to hover around 10 percent.

The numbers show that some of the gain in the percentage of journalists of color is due to the downsizing of the industry, a sign that retention of journalists must be a higher priority for all newspapers. Retention is of particular concern when it comes to black journalists, who over the past five years have only increased their presence in newsrooms by 34.

Taken all together, these dismal numbers show that aggressive steps must be taken if the industry ever hopes to have its newsroom workforce mirror the general U.S. population to ensure that all communities across the country are covered and that they are covered fairly and accurately. According to the 2000 census, 32.8 percent of the U.S. population is made up of communities of color.

"It is clear that ASNE will not reach its goal of achieving parity in the newsroom by 2025 as long as this remains an institutional goal and not a personal one for its hundreds of members," said Mae Cheng, UNITY president.

"For this reason, UNITY is asking each ASNE member to personally accept the challenge of improving diversity in his or her newsroom," Cheng continued. "Editors need to make this a priority, perhaps even taking the dramatic step of making a majority of their hires over the next year qualified people of color to begin to finally move that needle."

In its five-year strategic plan unveiled in January, UNITY is determined to work with the industry to ensure that at the end of 2008, journalists of color will represent at least 20 percent of the newsroom population across the country. It further will work to ensure that journalists of color represent at least 15 percent of the supervisors in newsrooms. To that end, UNITY and its member organizations stand ready to help any news organization that wants to train, recruit, retain and promote journalists of color.

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