America’s newsrooms are still mostly white men…. (More)

“Why aren’t we seeing the number of people of color employed in newsrooms move?”

The American Society of News Editors have released their 2017 census of their profession and The Invisible Bias is still very much present:

In what has already been a pretty depressing news week for women, the newly released results of ASNE’s newsroom diversity survey add a little more “meh” news in regards to both gender and racial diversity in U.S. newsrooms.

The share of people of color working in the 661 news organizations that took the survey was 16.55 percent in 2017, down slightly from 16.94 percent in 2016. (Things look a little better at online-only news sites: 24.3 percent of journalists working there were people of color, up from 23.3 percent last year.)

Women made up 39.1 percent of all newsroom employees in 2017, compared to 38.7 percent in 2016. (And only up slightly from way back in 2001, when it was 37.35 percent.) Again, online-only news organizations did better than daily newspapers: 47.8 percent of online-only news site employees were women, compared to 47.6 percent in 2016, while at daily newspapers, women comprised 38.9 percent of employees, compared to 38.1 percent in 2016.

The BPI Grafix Department summarized the most recent data in the image above. Each icon represents 2% of the total newsroom population. For simplicity, we used Black-Hispanic icons for all people of color. The pink area represents the roughly 51% of the population who are women. The grey area represents the roughly 32% of the U.S. population who are white men. The white male icons fill that entire grey area … and more.

In total, the ASNE survey found that about 52% of newsroom employees are white men, and an even higher percentage of editors and other senior newsroom staff.

The Google News Lab offers an interactive chart:

You can dive into the data using the buttons at the top. The 2001-2017 charts show some progress over the past 16 years, but the white male dominance remains:

“Why aren’t we seeing the number of people of color employed in newsrooms move…when we’ve been doing this and talking about diversity for, what, more than 20 years, maybe more than 30 years?” ASNE executive director Teri Hayt said to me earlier this year, explaining why – starting with 2017 – ASNE has chosen to focus on newsroom diversity rather than on the overall number of jobs lost in the industry.

There has been progress, led in part by the Washington Post:

There are outliers, like Jeff Bezos’ 180 at the Washington Post in recent years. The Post sports a 50/50 split of male and female personnel, including similar splits in leadership roles. Where the publication suffers, still, is in racial diversity, with 73 percent of leadership roles being filled by caucasians.

Still, it’s better than most. The Chicago Tribune, for example, clocks in with a 39 percent female workforce, and 88 percent of its leadership positions held by caucasians.

Notably though, most newsrooms are making significant progress. 44 percent have gained gender diversity since 2001, while only 26 percent – including San Jose Mercury News and USA Today – have gone backwards. The Houston Chronicle and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are two of the biggest movers in this timeframe, as is the aforementioned Washington Post — a company that has completely transformed itself under Bezos’ leadership and is now one of the most diverse publications tracked.

As for the New York Times … their newsroom is 81% white (including 83% of leadership posts) and 57% male (including 56% of leadership posts).

Notably, online-only newsrooms are much more balanced:

Survey results indicated better-than-average gender and racial balance in online-only newsrooms. Of journalists working at those news organizations, 48% are female and 24% are people of color.

That matters because reporters and especially editors still act as gatekeepers. They decide whether to cover a story, how much time and other resources to invest in it, and which sources to use. If reporters and editors are mostly white men, with mostly white men in their contact lists, you’ll get a disproportionate focus on issues and viewpoints that matter to white men.

The Washington Post’s Swati Sharma described that in an article for Neiman Lab:

If your newsroom isn’t diverse, you’re failing at journalism. 2017 should be the year that publications should finally embrace this notion.

A newsroom that represents the country we cover is what a newsroom is supposed to look like. Anything short of that is wrong. If the mission is to hold our institutions and politicians responsible, to inform readers, to uncover corruption, even to tell a good story — it cannot be done with one kind of voice, with one point of view.

And she’s not buying the “not enough qualified candidates” excuse:

If you say there aren’t enough qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds, you are failing yourself, your news organization and your audience. The problem is not with the candidates. The problem is that you’re looking in the wrong place, and not looking hard enough. So change it up. Stop looking in the same places; stop doing the same thing but expecting a different result.

Talk to different people. Recruit from smaller towns, smaller news organizations. Tap into the many diverse leadership programs out there. Meet high school students and become a mentor. Encourage the newsroom to recommend solid candidates they know.

Many news organizations are doing these things — but one problem remains: Recruiters are looking for candidates who have resumes that are identical to the journalists they are used to hiring. This is unacceptable. Managers need to look beyond the resume and hire people who are, essentially, different.

Newsrooms need to take more risks. Not everyone on the political staff of any publication should be a Washington insider, and not every correspondent should have attended an Ivy League school. Someone who contributes to newsroom diversity will have a background different from what you know, what you expect. That’s okay. Embrace it, and even look for it. Again, it’s all about the journalism — and having people with a wide range of unconventional experiences doing the journalism will only make your newsroom better.

How does that play out in Realworldia? Well, consider this story:

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health have agreed to return to negotiations with Democrats on a bill to continue funding for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said Monday he would delay floor consideration of the bill passed by the committee last week “in hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement on offsets.”

The bill last week passed with no support from Democrats, who complained that the bill took money from Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to offset the costs of the program.

There are roughly 9 million children enrolled in CHIP and single moms and people of color have much lower median family incomes, so CHIP enrollees are overwhelmingly children of single moms and/or children of color.

In contrast, 87% of House Republicans are white men. So why isn’t this a story about White Men Debate Whether to Fund Health Care for Children of Single Moms and Children of Color?

Maybe because most reporters and editors are also white men. I’m sure many of those white men care about children of single moms and children of color. But they don’t care as much as the children’s moms … and very likely not as much as reporters or editors that share more similar life experiences with those children’s moms.

Jessie Hellman – who wrote that The Hill article about CHIP – is a woman. But 17 of her 20 editors are men. Just sayin’….


Image: Crissie Brown (; Data:


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