ASNE's 2018 diversity survey results reflect low participation but encouraging shifts
Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 15, 2018) - Responses to the 2018 American Society of News Editors Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey are indicative of a sea change in how newsroom representation is measured and discussed.
In September, ASNE announced a historic low among newsrooms participating in the organization's annual survey, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. Despite a response rate of about 17 percent, with 293 newsrooms of the 1,700 queried for the survey submitting information, there are still encouraging points in the data.
People of color represent 22.6 percent of the workforce in U.S. newsrooms that responded to this year's survey. While encouraging, this figure cannot be generalized to interpret the landscape of the U.S. journalism industry as a whole because the responses are not drawn from a random sample. The survey has historically relied on a convenience sample from organizations that volunteer to participate.
Participation in the survey is crucial to building more diverse and inclusive journalism communities. ASNE asked all newsrooms in the nation to be transparent, like The New York Times, ProPublica and the Rochester (New York) Democrat & Chronicle, in releasing their diversity numbers this year and demonstrate their commitment to equality and representation in journalism like last year's most diverse newsrooms, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
"While we are discouraged by this year's low participation rate, the demographic data from participating organizations, particularly online-only organizations, is encouraging," said Meredith Clark, lead researcher and an assistant professor at the University of Virginia. "In these newsrooms, journalists from underrepresented groups are closing the gap, and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds make up a big part of those gains."
In online-only news organizations, people of color employed as managers and full-time journalists comprised 25.6 percent of the workforce among respondents, compared to last year's 24.3 percent.
The survey also found that 79.3 percent reported having at least one woman among their top three editors, and 32.7 percent reported having at least one minority journalist in a top-three position.
"In addition to charting this growth, we are conducting in-depth interviews with journalists from underrepresented groups to learn more about their experiences in the newsrooms to address the details that the numbers don't tell us and to work to present that information as a tool for developing informed strategies to encourage newsrooms to make meaningful commitments to diversifying their staff," Clark said. Participants are still being sought for the interviews, which end on Dec. 15. Interested individuals who are currently working in newspaper or digital media newsrooms are encouraged to sign up.
The results summarize responses from 293 news organizations, including 189 newspapers and 100 online-only news sites (some organizations did not specify).
"A survey can only measure progress among those who responded, and for that reason, we hope to find a way to improve participation in the coming year," said ASNE President Nancy Barnes, NPR's senior vice president for news and editorial director. "Nonetheless, it is gratifying to see signs of progress among these 293 newsrooms, which included some of the oldest brands and some of the newer brands in the business."
Different from previous years, this year's survey included open-ended questions asking news organizations to provide specific examples of stories and other best practices that show their commitment to diversity recruitment and retention. Results will be reviewed and shared later.
Other highlights of the survey showed:
- In 2018, people of color comprised 22.6 percent of employees reported by all newsrooms in our survey, compared to 16.5 percent in 2017. Among daily newspapers, about 22.2 percent of employees were racial minorities (compared to 16.3 percent in 2017), and 25.6 percent of employees at online-only news websites were minorities (compared to 24.3 percent in 2017).
- Women made up more than a third of newsroom employees overall (41.7 percent in 2018 compared to 39.1 percent in 2017). Women comprised 41.2 percent of daily newspaper employees in this year's survey (compared to 38.9 percent in 2017) and 47.8 percent of online-only news organization employees, holding steady from 2017.
- Among respondents, the industry lost a net of 505 journalism jobs last year.
- Of all newsroom managers, 19 percent were minorities (compared to 13.4 percent in 2017), and 41.8 percent were women (compared to 38.9 percent in 2017).
"ASNE remains as committed as ever to the cause of advancing diversity, but the disappointing response rate puts us in a tough spot," said ASNE Diversity Committee Co-Chair Karen Magnuson, executive editor of the Rochester (New York) Democrat & Chronicle. "We need stronger survey participation and support from editors to accurately reflect the industry and implement improvements. We thank the news leaders who took time to respond and encourage all to join with us in 2019."
ASNE continued its partnership with the Google News Lab, which has produced data visualizations of this year's survey results and historical data dating back to 2001. The News Lab's newly launched interactive website will serve as a visual archive of the survey data, in addition to the diversity page at asne.org.
ASNE also continues to partner with the Democracy Fund, which helped create a more comprehensive and data-driven survey that catalogues newsroom diversity numbers for U.S. print and online publications. The Knight Foundation is also a key supporter of the annual survey.
In 2012, the ASNE Diversity Committee created the Minority Leadership Institute to train and develop up-and-coming, mid-level newsroom leaders and connect them with a network of established ASNE leaders. In 2016, ASNE rebranded the program as the Emerging Leaders Institute to include all emerging leaders with diverse backgrounds. ASNE has hosted 16 institutes since the first one in 2012.
ASNE plans to host four institutes in 2019. Dates and venues will be announced before the end of this year.
About the ASNE survey
Since its inception in 1978, ASNE's diversity research has revealed the degree to which newspapers and, more recently, online-only news websites reflect the public they aim to serve. Over the years, the survey has been revised to maintain its relevance as a useful and aspirational benchmark for racial and gender diversity.
In 1998, ASNE began to ask for the numbers of women employed in newsrooms. Until then, the research tracked only employment and general job categories for black, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American employees.
In 2014, the survey began asking for the number of women and people of color in top newsroom leadership positions.
In 2016, we made two notable changes that we have continued to apply to our survey in years since.
First, we stopped estimating the number of journalists working in newsrooms, as the changing structure of modern newsrooms made it increasingly impractical and error-prone to try to estimate the number of working journalists.
Second, we stopped asking news organizations to classify employees by job category, other than breaking out leadership separately, because new jobs outside of the norm are constantly being created in many newsrooms.
This year, we expanded job-type categories and created a self-administered survey for journalists who identify as LGBTQIA+, recognizing that federal law has yet to include protections for members of LGBTQIA+ communities. If you wish to take this survey, it is available at: http://bit.ly/ASNE_LGBTQ.
This year's survey research was conducted by Meredith D. Clark, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. For research-related questions about this year's diversity survey, Meredith D. Clark can be reached at 434.253.5563.
About the American Society of News Editors
The American Society of News Editors focuses on leadership development and journalism-related issues. Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, ASNE promotes fair, principled journalism; defends and protects First Amendment rights; and fights for freedom of information and open government. Leadership, innovation, diversity and inclusion in coverage and the journalism workforce, opinion journalism, news literacy and the sharing of ideas are also key ASNE initiatives.
About Democracy Fund
The Democracy Fund invests in organizations working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. We believe the best days of American democracy lie ahead. Bipartisan solutions can modernize our elections. Digital advances can help people engage in civic life. New incentives can encourage political leaders to find principled compromise and address our country's greatest challenges. The Democracy Fund is a resource for those who want to strengthen our nation's democracy. We invest in change makers whose ideas and energy can make a difference. We advocate for solutions that can bring lasting improvement to our political system. We build bridges that help people come together to serve the nation, moving us closer to the ideal of a government of, by, and for the people.
About Google News Lab
The News Lab is a team within the Google News Initiative whose mission is to collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs to drive innovation in news. Offering partnerships and training in over 50 countries, the News Lab brings the best of Google technology to tackle important challenges in journalism today.
About Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
About the University of Virginia's Department of Media Studies
The Media Studies Department is focused on the forms and effects of media: books, radio, film, television, photography, print, digital and electronic media.
It is critically engaged with the creative analysis, production, and research into traditional and emerging forms of media. The department emphasizes digital media through approaches to its history, theory, and technology and their impact upon contemporary life. Subjects of study include: aesthetics and form; individual perception; the history of media; the ethics and effects of media in the arena of policy studies; the social impact of media on public opinion; and the relations between media and the law.
About The Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
The Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education promotes diversity in the news media through improved coverage, hiring, business practices and training programs that equip journalists with leadership, multimedia skills and subject expertise for news organizations across platforms. Their primary mission is to ensure that all segments of our diverse society are fairly, accurately and credibly portrayed.