2009 census

U.S. newsroom employment declines

Posted 4/16/2009 12:57:00 PM

American daily newspapers shed 5,900 newsroom jobs last year, reducing their employment of journalists by 11.3 percent to the levels of the early 1980s.

The American Society of News Editors, which has conducted a census of newsrooms since 1978 primarily as a means of measuring minority employment, also found that the percentage of minorities in newsrooms stood at 13.41 percent, a decline of .11 percentage points from a year ago.

Of the journalists who departed newsrooms, 854 were minorities according to ASNE’s 2009 census. The overall year-over-year drop left 46,700 journalists, including 6,300 minority professionals, on newspaper staffs at the end of December 2008. The number of minority journalists stands at the level reported in the 1998 census.

“The loss of journalists is a loss for democracy,” said ASNE President Charlotte Hall. “The loss of people of color from our newsrooms is especially disturbing because our future depends on our ability to serve multicultural audiences. ASNE is committed to keeping newsroom diversity on the front burner even in tough times.”

The overall job loss was the largest one-year decline in employment in the history of the ASNE census and followed a drop of 2,400 a year ago. Since a modern era peak of 56,400 reported in 2001, newsroom jobs have decreased by 9,700. The highest employment level in the survey’s history was 56,900 reported in 1990.

In this decade, there has been a net increase of Latino, Asian and Native American journalists and a net decline of Black journalists.

Highlights of the 2009 survey

  • Supervisors: Minorities account for 11.2 percent of all supervisors in newsrooms, which remains virtually unchanged for the past two years. Of all minorities, 22 percent are supervisors.
  • Newspapers with no minorities: 458 newspapers responding to the ASNE census had no minorities on their full-time staff. This number has been growing since 2006. The majority of these newspapers have circulations of 10,000 or less. All newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or more that responded to the census had at least one minority staffer.
  • Where do minorities work: Nearly two-thirds of minorities work at newspapers with circulations exceeding 100,000. The percentage of minorities working at newspapers with more than 500,000 circulation is 17 percent; 250,001 to 500,000 circulation, 19 percent; 100,001 to 250,000 circulation now account for 29 percent.

Other Findings

  • Online: The census found 2,300 journalists worked solely online of which nearly 19.6 percent were minority. ASNE started counting online-only journalists in 2007. Then there were 1,900 online journalists of whom 16 percent were minorities.
  • Internships: The percentage of interns who are minorities stands at 26.4 percent, a decrease from 28 percent last year.
  • First time hires: Minorities represented 16 percent of the journalists hired for their first full-time newsroom job down from 17.6 percent.
  • Women: Women working full-time in daily newspapers total about 17,300 or 37 percent. Minority women accounted for 16.6 percent of female newsroom staffers.
  • Men: Men total just under 29,400. Minority men account for 11.5 percent of male newsroom staffers.

Since 2001, Asian American journalists have increased by 167, Latinos by 23 and Native Americans by 44. The number of Black journalists decreased by 539.


In 1999, the ASNE board of directors adopted a revised mission statement and a new system of tracking the industry’s progress. The mission statement said: The percentage of minorities in the newsrooms of the national’s daily papers must be on parity with the percentage of minorities in the general population by 2025 or earlier.

In September 2000, the ASNE board created a system of three-year benchmarks. These five benchmarks are designed to help the industry measure its progress toward meeting the 2025 goal. The benchmarks compared to actual numbers:

  2009 Benchmark 2009 Actual
Minority employment 21.55% 13.41%
Minority Supervisors 19% 11.2%
Interns 38.6% 26.4%
Number of Newspapers with No minorities on staff 230 458
Number of Newspapers achieving parity With their community 522 111

ASNE’s Diversity Mission

Increasing diversity in U.S. newspaper newsrooms has been a primary ASNE mission since 1978. ASNE is an industry leader in helping newspapers better reflect their communities. It provides career information to aspiring journalists. ASNE sponsors and coordinates a variety of initiatives and projects, including job fairs directed at young journalists of color and seminars for editors on leading diverse newsrooms. It is the only major mainstream journalism organization with a full-time diversity director.

ASNE’s initial survey in 1978 revealed that minority journalists comprised 3.95 percent of the total newsroom workforce (1,700 out of 43,000). Then there were more than 1700 general circulation daily newspapers.The survey is a tool ASNE uses to measure the success of its goal of having the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025. Currently, minorities make up 33 percent of the U.S. population.

Census procedures

The ASNE newsroom employment census is based on a yearly response rate of 65 percent. For the 2009 census, 931 of the 1,405 daily newspapers responded to the survey, representing 66.26 percent of all U.S. dailies.

The data from newspapers that returned the survey are used to project the numbers for nonresponding newspapers in the same circulation range. An ASNE follow-up test of nonresponding newspapers found their employment of minorities closely resembles newspapers in their circulation categories that respond to the survey. 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.

Editors participating in the survey agree to publish the percentage of newsroom employees who are minorities. In 2006, the ASNE board also agreed to list the percentage for each minority group at each newspaper. A list of newspapers with their percentages follows the summary and tables.

ASNE is an organization that includes directing editors of daily newspapers throughout the Americas. Founded in 1922, as the American Society of Newspaper Editors, ASNE is active in a number of areas of interest to top editors with priorities on improving freedom of information, diversity, readership and credibility of newspapers. ASNE changed its name this month to the American Society of News Editors and approved broadening its membership to editors of online news providers and academic leaders.

Attached Files

Percentages at participating newspapers