2010 supplement - online only organizations

ASNE completes second census of online-only news sites, finds increasing diversity

Posted 7/29/2010 8:34:00 AM

A small group of online-only news organizations appears to have more diverse newsrooms than the nation's traditional daily newspapers, according to a special census by the American Society of News Editors.

About one of every five full-time journalists employed by the 27 sites that responded voluntarily to the ASNE questionnaire was a journalist of color, compared to about one of every seven in the annual ASNE census of newsrooms that publish a daily newspaper. Two of every five staffers at the online-only sites were women, compared to about one of every three in the newspaper newsrooms.

ASNE released a survey of online-only news sites in April, along with its annual survey of traditional newsrooms, but subsequently dismissed those findings as an inadequate effort because only 28 sites were identified and just seven responded. This second effort at surveying online-only newsrooms used more precise qualifying standards and was aided by others in the online industry who identified more sites to include.

Questionnaires were sent to 58 sites, and 27, or 47 percent, responded. (The results of the survey are listed at the bottom of this release.) This small sample means the results of the survey may not be indicative of online-only news organizations as a group. The universe of online-only newsrooms is still taking shape.

This is in contrast to the ASNE daily newspaper survey, which has a 65 percent response rate among the more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the U.S. ASNE has taken that survey since 1978.

“We're grateful to those who pressed us on the importance of this new effort and helped us do it better. But this is still just a first step -- an important one, but a first step,” said ASNE president Milton Coleman, senior editor at The Washington Post. “As this type of newswork evolves, so will our efforts to monitor it and give information and direction to those who recognize that increasing diversity in America's newsrooms and news reports is essential to our profession, our business and our society.”

There were some similarities between the online-only sites and daily-newspaper newsrooms.

  • Most of the journalists of color among the 27 were at the eight sites that had 10 employees or more. The majority of the journalists of color in newspaper newsrooms work at newspapers that have a circulation of 100,000 or more.
  • Some 465 newspapers that responded to the ASNE survey in April, nearly all of them small, reported having no minority employees, as did 11 of the sites with smaller staffs among the 58 online-only newsrooms.

The two most diverse online-only sites were among the smaller ones -- 100 percent at The Root and 75 percent at Mission Loc@l. The Root is a site that reflects black perspectives on issues of the day. Mission Loca@l covers the Mission district of San Francisco.

The survey found that online-only sites can range from news websites established to cover defined neighborhoods and run by one or two individuals who earn no money, to well-known commercial enterprises. The survey also suggests that an increasing number of people appear to be volunteering to tell their neighbors what is going on in their immediate community.

“Perhaps it's because of the recession. Perhaps it's because if you have a laptop, you now have a website,” said ASNE diversity consultant Bobbi Bowman, who directed the census. “Perhaps it's because people want to find out stuff and share it. Perhaps it's like what happened as Americans moved west. Somebody always created a newspaper in town.”

Some of the largest online-only websites contacted by ASNE did not return questionnaires. Among them were AOL News, The Huffington Post, Salon, Talking Points Memo and Yahoo! News.

“We encourage all online news organizations to participate in future ASNE diversity surveys to provide a more comprehensive picture of diversity in our rapidly changing industry. It's an issue of accuracy and credibility. Commitment to reflecting the total community has to be as much of our industry's standard of excellence as First Amendment principles and quality journalism,” said Karen Magnuson, co-chair of the ASNE Diversity Committee and editor and vice president/News of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.

The census packets were sent June 16 to 73 sites identified as online-only news sites. Editors who did not respond to this mailing were contacted three more times before the reporting period ended this week. During the survey ASNE discovered that 15 of the 73 originally contacted were sites run by volunteers or by schools of journalism and therefore had no full-time paid journalists. This is a defining criterion for journalists included in the ASNE surveys, which use confidential employer-provided figures to report minority percentages.

The American Society of News Editors is a membership organization for leaders of multimedia news organizations and deans and endowed chairs at accredited journalism schools. ASNE focuses on open government and the First Amendment, journalism education, leadership and diversity.

Organization Total
Min %
Min %
Min %
Min %
Amer. Indian
Min %
Center for Investigative Reporting/California Watch, Berkeley, Calif. 35.7 7.14 14.29 14.29 0.0
Crosscut Public Media, Seattle 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Factcheck.org/Annenberg Public Policy Center, Washington 16.7 0.0 16.67 0.0 .0.0
GablesHomePage, Coral Gables, Fla. 50.0 0.0 0.0 50.0 0.0
GlobalPost, Boston 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Gotham Gazette, New York City 25.0 0.0 25.0 0.0 0.0
Investigate West, Edmonds, Wash. 25.0 0.0 0.0 25.0 0.0
KyPost.com, Cincinnati 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, Hallowell, Maine 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Mission Loc@l, San Francisco 75.0 0.0 0.0 75.0 0.0
New West, Missoula, Mont. 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
NJ Spotlight, Montclair 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
ProPublica, New York 13.3 6.67 6.67 0.0 0.0
SeattlePI.com 27.8 11.11 0.0 16.67 0.0
St. Louis Beacon 15.4 0.0 15.38 0.0 0.0
Texas Watchdog, Houston 16.7 16.67 0.0 0.0 0.0
The Bay Citizen, San Francisco 15.8 15.79 0.0 0.0 0.0
The Center for Public Integrity, Washington 20.0 4.0 4.0 12.0 0.0
The New Haven (Conn.) Independent 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
The News Mexico Independent, Albuquerque 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
The Root, Washington 100.0 0.0 100.0 0.0 0.0
The Sacramento (Calif.) Press 60.0 60.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
The Texas Tribune, Austin 18.2 9.09 0.0 9.09 0.0
The Washington Independent 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Tucson (Ariz.) Citizen 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Voice of San Diego 20.0 0.0 0.0 20.0 0.0
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Madison 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

Online news organizations we did not hear from:

Annarbor.com, Dearborn, Mich.
AOL, New York
DNAinfo, New York
INDenverTimes, Denver
Investigative Voice, Baltimore
MinnPost.com, Minneapolis
NEast Philly, Philadelphia
New Jersey Newsroom, Montclair
New River Voice, Radford, Va.
Open Media Boston, Boston
Salon.com, San Francisco
San Francisco Appeal, San Francisco
SF Public Press, San Francisco
Talking Points Memo (TPM Media LLC), New York
The Big Money, New York
The B-Town Blog, Burien, Wash.
The Capital Times, Madison, Wis.
The Colorado Independent
The Connecticut Mirror, Hartford,
The Daily Beast, New York
The Fayetteville (Ark.) Flyer
The Florida Independent
The Grand Avenue News, Coral Gables, Fla.
The Huffington Post, Los Angeles
The Iowa Independent, Ames
The Lens, New Orleans
The Michigan Messenger
The Minnesota Independent, Minneapolis
TucsonSentinel.com, Tucson, Ariz.
Wyofile, Lander, Wyo.
Yahoo!, Sunnyvale, Calif.

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