ASNE sets new vision for newsroom diversity beyond 2000

MIAMI The board of the American Society of Newspaper Editors today adopted a newsroom diversity mission statement that will take the U.S. newspaper industry’s diversity efforts beyond 2000.

MIAMI The board of the American Society of Newspaper Editors today adopted a newsroom diversity mission statement that will take the U.S. newspaper industry’s diversity efforts beyond 2000.

ASNE President Edward Seaton, editor-in-chief of The Manhattan (Kan.) Mercury, said, "This mission statement strongly reaffirms our commitment to having newsrooms that reflect the communities that we cover."

The ASNE board also approved adding women to its annual census on newsroom employment. However, the board stated that the focus of its diversity initiatives would remain on the hiring and promotion of people of color in the newsroom. "ASNE’s concern regarding women is focused on management and the glass ceiling," Seaton said.

The mission statement says:

    To cover communities fully, to carry out their role in a democracy, and to succeed in the marketplace, the nation’s newsrooms must reflect the racial diversity of American society by 2025 or sooner. At a minimum, all newspapers should employ journalists of color and every newspaper should reflect the diversity of its community.

    The newsroom must be a place in which all employees contribute their full potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or other defining characteristic.

The ASNE board said that ASNE will pursue the following strategies, "which may be expanded or amended periodically":

  • Conduct an annual census of employment of Asian Americans, blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, and women in the newsroom.
  • Encourage and assist editors in recruiting, hiring and managing diverse newsrooms.
  • Expand ASNE efforts to foster newsroom diversity.
  • Establish three-year benchmarks for measuring progress.

Seaton said the ASNE board’s action today signals the beginning of significant long-term plans to rejuvenate and accelerate the diversification of the newsrooms of daily newspapers. "The commitment we are undertaking to bring change to newsrooms is as important as the mission we have adopted for the industry," said Seaton. "In the end, we will be measured as much for our efforts as for our aspirations."

In the coming weeks, the Society will convene three roundtables to bring together editors, publishers, minority journalists, journalism educators, high school journalism teachers, media foundation leaders, and others to develop fresh ideas relating to newsroom diversity, he said.

"These roundtables will explore four areas that ASNE believes will be crucial to meeting the challenge of newsroom diversity beyond 2000," Seaton said. Topics to be discussed include increasing the number of minority young people going into journalism careers, hiring and recruitment, the newsroom culture, and retention and promotion of minorities.

The ASNE mission statement calls for establishing measurable benchmarks to assess the industry’s progress every three years. According to Seaton, among the benchmarks under consideration are tracking progress in the following areas:

  • Increasing the number of minorities in journalism education/news-editorial sequences.
  • Reducing the number of newspapers that employ no minorities.
  • Reducing turnover among minorities in newsrooms.
  • Increasing minority scholarships and internships.
  • Increasing the number of newsrooms that have diversity plans.
  • Developing innovative programs that identify and support minority young people interested in journalism careers.

In April, the ASNE board issued a draft diversity statement for comment from its members, journalism organizations, media foundations, and other interested parties. The Society received considerable written comment on the draft statement, and the ASNE Diversity Committee held a meeting in August to discuss the comments and make recommendations to the board.

ASNE adopted a well-known goal in 1978, which challenged the industry to achieve racial parity by 2000 or sooner. According to ASNE’s annual newsroom census, conducted at the beginning of 1998, minority journalists comprise 11.46 percent of the professional newsroom work force. Minorities currently account for 26 percent of the total U.S. population.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors, with 860 members, is an organization of the main editors of daily newspapers in the Americas. Founded in 1922, ASNE focuses on the professional development of its members and journalism-related issues, including First Amendment, newsroom staff diversity, editorial innovation, and the newspaper’s role in providing information necessary to the informed practice of citizenry.

ASNE’s Web site includes frequently asked questions about the mission statement on newsroom diversity, ASNE’s diversity initiatives, and practical information about newsroom jobs, tips on planning one’s college career, and projects editors have developed to promote newsroom diversity.