Pacesetter winners demonstrate how diverse staffs produce better stories

April 15

Newspapers in places as diverse as Minnesota, California and Texas led the industry in their diversity efforts this year, according to the American Society Newspaper Editors.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, El Paso (Texas) Times and San Gabriel Valley (Calif.) Newspaper Gr

April 15

Newspapers in places as diverse as Minnesota, California and Texas led the industry in their diversity efforts this year, according to the American Society Newspaper Editors.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, El Paso (Texas) Times and San Gabriel Valley (Calif.) Newspaper Group won the one-year-old Pacesetter Diversity awards that recognize top performers in three categories: Grand Forks Herald for best diversity index, El Paso Times for highest percentage of minorities on staff, and the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group for largest increase in the percentage of minority staffing.

The top three winners will receive $3,000 each at a recognition ceremony Tuesday afternoon during ASNE's annual convention, which is being held in conjunction with the Newspaper Association of America and NEXPO. Awards will also be made in seven circulation categories yielding 21 winners in all.

“Although the number of minority journalists employed has remained relatively flat, there are a number of newspapers that remain committed to both the hiring and coverage of diverse communities,” said ASNE president Gilbert Bailon.

ASNE Diversity Chair Caesar Andrews said, “The industry has to do much better in attracting diverse talent. But there are certainly great examples of individual newsrooms rising to the occasion. The Pacesetter winners include wonderful examples of editors who made commitments and delivered impressive results.”

Phil Currie, 2006-07 ASNE Diversity Chair and Gannett's Senior Vice President/News, created the awards in 2007. “We wanted to recognize strong performers in the diversity area,” Currie said at the time. “Often, the focus seems to be on who isn't doing the job. Of course, we do need to keep attentive to that, because more progress needs to be made. But for this award, we wanted a focus on who IS doing the job.”

We asked the winning editors: How does a diverse staff improve news coverage?

“We've been able to get access and tell stories from Indian Country that otherwise would have eluded us. Other staff of color have enriched our newsroom (not least by improving the cooking) and shown one of America's least diverse areas that the professions are open to talented people of every background,” said Mike Jacobs, editor and publisher of the Herald.

“A diverse staff allows the newspaper to be in touch with all facets of the community,” said San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group Managing Editor Steve Hunt.

For example: A San Gabriel Valley Tribune reporter spent a month getting the inside story on a fire that devastated a local business community from a closed Asian community that feared and mistrusted local authorities. The reporter's fluency in Mandarin and her understanding of the culture were key to earning the community's trust.

“The diverse staff, especially when many are from this community, gives us a tremendous advantage in understanding the complex region and people we cover. Not only does the diversity help us in communicating with the non-English speaking residents, but it affords us the opportunity of understanding the cultures that blend together in creating a truly rich metropolitan area at the corner of three states (Texas, New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexico) said El Paso editor Don Flores. Last year, the El Paso Times published a package of stories both in print and online on the many border families who live on just $14 a day, the federal standard for poverty. Our staff's diversity and knowledge of the various cultures in our region gave readers and viewers a richer understanding of the cultural issues, such as immigration, language barriers and family ties, which contribute to border families' economic status,” he said.

The Gannett Foundation donated the cash awards. Currie, senior vice president/News for Gannett Co. Inc, is a member of the Gannett Foundation board.

The results are based on the ASNE newsroom census released in April 2007. ASNE has conducted this annual newsroom census since 1978 as part of its parity goal — to have the same percentage of minorities working in newsrooms as daily newspapers as there are minorities in the U.S. population.

Currently, 13.52 of the nation's full-time journalists are minorities. Minorities are 34 percent of the U.S. population, according to the most recent estimates by the U.S. Census. Editors have set 2025 as the year for newsrooms to reach the parity goal.

Currie has also published a book where the first winners of the award explain how they diversified their staff and the impact that diversity has had on their news coverage. The ASNE Web site contains a copy of the book.


Diversity Index
250,000 plus The Oregonian, Portland
100,001-250,000 The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Okla.
75,001-100,000 The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla.
50,001-75,000 Bucks County Courier Times, Levittown, Pa.
25,001-50,000 Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald
10,001-25,000 Daily News-Sun, Sun City, Ariz.
10,000 and below The Reporter-Times, Martinsville, Ind.
Minority Staff Percentage
250,000 plus The Miami Herald
100,001-250,000 The Honolulu Advertiser
75,001-100,000 San Gabriel Valley (Calif.) Newspaper Group
50,001-75,000 El Paso (Texas) Times
25,001-50,000 Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register, Visalia, Calif.
10,001-25,000 Laredo (Texas) Morning Times
10,000 and below Del Rio (Texas) News-Herald
Increase in Minority Staff Percentage
250,000 plus The Wall Street Journal
100,001-250,000 RedEye, Chicago
75,001-100,000 San Gabriel Valley (Calif.) Newspaper Group
50,001-75,000 The Times, Shreveport, La.
25,001-50,000 Times Herald, Port Huron, Mich.
10,001-25,000 The Gadsden (Ala.) Times
10,000 and below Havre (Mont.) Daily News