1997 census

ASNE Newsroom Census: Minorities hold steady in a shrinking newsroom work force, ASNE employment survey shows

Posted 4/9/1997 3:57:00 PM

WASHINGTON —The total number of journalists working at U.S. daily newspapers dipped last year, while minority representation in newsrooms inched up by a fraction of a percent, according to a survey released April 9, 1997, by the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Total newsroom employment slipped to 54,000, a decline from 55,000, according to the 1997 survey. While some newspapers expanded their newsgathering staffs in 1996, the year also was marked by mergers and closings of dailies as well. The number of daily newspapers dropped to 1,472 from 1,490, according to the ASNE survey. Daily newsroom employment has declined five percent from its peak of 56,900 in 1990.

Minority representation in the newsroom was 11.35 percent, compared with 11.02 percent reported in the 1996 survey. Despite the slight increase in the percentage of minorities in the workforce, the number of minorities employed - 6,100 - was unchanged from a year ago. There was a decline in the number of whites employed. This was the first time since 1978 when ASNE began the annual employment survey that there was no gain in the number of minorities employed.

"Although overall newsroom employment dropped a bit last year, the positive news is that editors maintained the level of minority news staffs," said ASNE President Robert H. Giles, editor and publisher of The Detroit News.

For nearly two decades, ASNE has conducted an annual employment census to track minority and general employment trends in daily newspapers. ASNE released its latest census results at its

April 8-11 convention in Washington, D.C

Over the years, ASNE's annual surveys show substantial growth in minority newsroom employment. In 1978, daily newspapers had 1,700 minorities in their newsroom workforce of 43,000. Minority employment has grown 259 percent since then.

Other highlights from the 1997 survey are:

  • The percentage of minority newsroom supervisors increased to 8.9 percent (1,144), from 8.4 percent (1,104). The proportion of minorities who are managers now is 19 percent.
  • This year, the number of minority journalists hired for their first full-time jobs increased to 530 from 510. However, the proportion of first-time hires who were minorities was 20 percent, compared to 21 percent in the 1996 survey.
  • The percentage of minority interns at daily newspapers was 35 percent, according to the 1997 survey. Minorities represented 37 percent of all newspaper interns, the 1996 survey found.
  • More newspapers employ minority journalists. The 1997 survey found 56.5 percent of daily newspapers employed minority newsroom professionals, compared to 55.9 percent in the 1996 survey.

In 1978, ASNE set the "Year 2000" goal, which challenged newspapers to achieve minority representation in newsrooms equivalent to the overall minority population in the United States by the year 2000. Currently, the national minority population is about 24 percent.

In a question added to the 1997 survey questionnaire, ASNE asked for information from newspapers about the percentage of minority residents in their primary circulation areas. Fifty-five percent of the newspapers that participated in the employment survey responded to this question.

Upon analysis, however, ASNE concluded that the question posed generated too great a variety in the responses to ensure the reliability of the data collected. Therefore, the responses to this question are not included in the report on the 1997 employment survey, though the numbers will be made available to individuals who request them. The 1998 survey questionnaire will be revised in an effort to collect this information in the next survey.

Other findings from the 1997 survey are:

Racial/ethnic groups

There are 2,929 black journalists (5.42 percent of the newsroom workforce); 1,811 Hispanic journalists (3.35 percent); 1,141 Asian journalists (2.11 percent); and 250 Native Americans (0.46 percent). The number of black journalists declined from 2,980 in the 1996 survey, while the other ethnic minority groups recorded increases, according to the 1997 survey.

Job categories

The proportion of white journalists in newsroom job categories remained the same, while more minority journalists moved into supervisory ranks and copy/layout editing positions. Nineteen percent of minority newsroom professionals are supervisors, compared to 18 percent reported in the 1996 survey.

Minority copy/layout editors increased to 17 percent from 16 percent. Fifty-one percent of minority newsroom professionals are reporters, a decline from 52 percent reported in the 1996 survey. The percentage of minorities who are photographers and graphic artists was unchanged at 13 percent.

Newsrooms with minorities

The percentage of newspapers with no minority professionals in the newsrooms declined to 43.5 percent from 44 percent, according to the 1997 survey. Also, more minorities are working at medium-sized and small newspapers. Ninety-five percent of newspapers in the 50,000 to 100,000 circulation category had minority newsroom professionals, compared to 93 percent of newspapers in this same category in the 1996 survey. And, 75 percent of newspapers in the 25,000 to 50,000 circulation category employ minorities, compared to 73 percent of newspapers in this category in the 1996 survey.

Circulation categories

Minority journalists are concentrated at the larger dailies, the 1997 survey found. Seventeen percent of minority newsroom professionals work at newspapers over 500,000 in circulation, compared to 10 percent of whites employed at papers of that size. The largest concentration of minority journalists, 23 percent and 24 percent respectively, are working at newspapers between 250,000 to 500,000 in circulation and 100,000 to 250,000 in circulation. White journalists represent 15 percent of the workforce in newspapers of 250,000 to 500,000 in circulation, and 20 percent of newsroom professionals in newspapers of 100,000 to 250,000 circulation.

Survey procedures

The 1997 ASNE annual census is based on employment data reported by daily newspapers for the end of 1996. For this year's survey, 983 of 1,472 daily newspapers responded to the survey, representing 67 percent of all U.S. dailies. The survey data are projected to reflect all daily newspapers in the country. Editors participating in the survey agreed to publish the percentage of newsroom employees who are minorities. A list of newspapers with their percentages is also available on this site.

The data from newspapers that returned the survey are used to project the numbers for non-responding newspapers in the same circulation range. In the past, ASNE has resurveyed non-responding newspapers and found they closely resemble newspapers in their circulation categories that respond to the survey. All of the survey figures reported above are weighted in this way to reflect all daily newspapers. ASNE has implemented internal monitoring procedures to ensure the consistency and credibility of the employment data. Moreover, because the survey procedures remain constant each year, the ASNE census provides highly reliable year-to-year comparisons.

For nearly two decades, ASNE has been an industry leader in diversity and helping newspapers to better reflect their communities. ASNE – supported by grants from newspaper-related foundations, dailies, and individuals– administers a variety of diversity initiatives, including regional minority job fairs, college short courses, and resource publications.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors, with 870 members, is an organization of the main editors of daily newspapers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1922, ASNE's principal purpose is to serve as a medium for exchange of ideas and the professional growth and development of its members.