1998 census

ASNE Newsroom Census: Minority employment inches up in daily newspapers

Posted 4/10/1998 4:55:00 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The 1998 census of newsroom employment in U.S. dailies shows incremental gains in the employment of minorities in most areas of the newsroom. Minority journalists comprise 11.46 percent of newsroom employees, compared to 11.35 percent in the previous year, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

The newsroom work force, whites and minorities, grew to 54,700 this year, from 54,000 the previous year. The number of minority journalists working at the nation's dailies rose to 6,300, compared to 6,100 in the previous two years.

This marks the 20th year of ASNE's annual newsroom employment census, which tracks overall newsroom employment and the representation of minority journalists. When the annual census started in 1978, minority journalists were 4 percent of the total newsroom work force (1,700 of 43,000). The 1998 census is based on employment data reported by daily newspapers as of Jan. 1, 1998.

Over the past two decades, significant growth in the representation of minority journalists has been achieved, although the yearly gains have been small. From 1978 to 1998, minority employment has grown 270 percent, while white employment during the same period increased 17 percent.

"Newsroom diversity remains a high priority for daily newspapers," said Sandra M. Rowe, president of ASNE and editor of The Oregonian, Portland. "ASNE remains strongly committed to fostering newsrooms beyond 2000 that will reflect the changing demographics of this nation."

In 1978, ASNE set the Year 2000 goal, which challenged newspapers to achieve diversity in their newsrooms equivalent to the U.S. minority population by the year 2000 or sooner. Currently, minorities represent about 26 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census. For the 20 past years, ASNE has been an industry leader in newsroom diversity and helping newspapers to better reflect their communities. The Society sponsors a variety of initiatives and projects, including job fairs and journalism short courses.

Looking back over the 20-year period, progress can be highlighted in key areas:

  • More dailies have integrated newsrooms than in 1978. This year, 58 percent of newspapers employed minority newsroom professionals, compared to one-third in 1978.
  • The proportion of minorities working in all job categories in the newsroom has grown significantly in the past two decades. This year, 9 percent of newsroom supervisors were minorities, compared to only 1 percent in 1978. The representation of minority reporters and writers has doubled to 12.5 percent this year, from 6 percent in 1978. Minority copy and layout editors represented 10.2 percent of the newsroom this year, compared to 3 percent in 1978. The proportion of minority photographers and graphic artists has almost tripled, from 5 percent in 1978 to 14.6 percent this year. (Table D.)
  • The 1998 survey indicates that 21.5 percent of journalists hired for their first full-time jobs in 1997 were minorities. The percentage of minorities taking their first newsroom jobs was 16.4 percent in 1985, the first year ASNE collected figures for this category. (Table I.)

Other findings of the 1998 newsroom employment survey are:

  • Racial/ethnic groups: There are 2,946 black journalists (5.38 percent of the newsroom workforce); 1,889 Hispanic journalists (3.45 percent); 1,178 Asian journalists (2.15 percent), and 256 Native American journalists (0.47 percent). (Table B.)
  • Internships: One-third (33.3 percent) of the interns hired in 1997 were minorities, compared to 35 percent the previous year (Table J). The highest proportion of minorities in newspaper internships peaked in 1991 at 39.6 percent. (Table J.)
  • Circulation categories: While minority journalists still are concentrated at the larger dailies (Table F), the 1998 survey reported a noticeable decline in the proportion of minority journalists working at newspapers with circulations over 500,000. The proportion of minority journalists at newspapers with circulations between 250,000 to 500,000 grew by three percentage points to 26 percent from 23 percent the previous year.
  • Job categories: The proportion of minorities who are supervisors was unchanged at 9 percent this year, compared to 8.9 percent in 1996 (Table C). The distribution of whites and minorities in job categories was virtually the same this year and last year.
  • Newsrooms with minorities: The percentage of newspapers with no minority professionals in the newsrooms declined to 42 percent this year from 43.5 percent in 1996. Thirty-one percent of newspapers under 10,000 circulation employ minorities, compared to 27 percent the previous year (Table E).

Census Procedures

For the 1998 ASNE newsroom employment census, 957 of 1,462 daily newspapers responded to the survey, representing 65.5 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 follows the summary and tables.

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.

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.