2015 Census

Percentage of minorities in newsrooms remains relatively steady; 63 percent of newspapers have at least one woman among top-three editors


Columbia, Missouri (July 28, 2015) -- The percentage of minority journalists in daily-newspaper newsrooms remained relatively stable in 2014 at 12.76 percent even as newsroom employment declined by 10.4 percent, according to the annual census released Tuesday by the American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University. 


This year's census also found that the percentage of news organizations that reported having at least one woman among their top three editors remains steady at 63 percent. The number of minority leaders has dropped by 3 percentage points, with 12 percent of participating organizations saying at least one of their top three editors is a person of color. This was the second year the questions about women and minorities in leadership were asked.

Overall, the survey found, there are about 32,900 full-time journalists at nearly 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. That's a 3,800-person decrease from 36,700 in 2013. Of those 32,900 employees, about 4,200, or 12.76 percent, are racial minorities. That's a 0.58 percent decrease from last year's 13.34 percent despite the substantially smaller newsroom employment in 2014.


The percentage of minority journalists has hovered between 12 and 14 percent for more than a decade. In 1978, when ASNE launched its Newsroom Employment Census of professional full-time journalists, 3.95 percent were minorities.


See detailed tables that display all the relevant numbers from this and past years' census data.


"ASNE understands the importance of reporting on an increasingly diverse America and is committed to finding new ways to ensure that diverse voices and perspectives are reflected in traditional and digital media," said ASNE President Chris Peck, associate editor of The Riverton (Wyo.) Ranger.


The Robert R. McCormick Foundation provided the funding for this year's census and has funded the project since the 2012 census. This is the first year that the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University joined forces with ASNE to collect and analyze the data.


"The fact that our industry isn't making progress continues to be frustrating," said Karen Magnuson, editor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and co-chair of the ASNE Diversifying the News Committee. "As the makeup of our nation changes, our news reports must change, as well. Our newsrooms and coverage must be inclusive to tell the real story of what is really happening in our communities. How can we do that well if our newsrooms lack diverse voices and perspectives? We editors can and should do better."


Although there was an overall decrease in the number of journalists from 2013 to 2014, two newspaper categories experienced increases. The number of employees at newspapers with daily circulations between 250,000 and 500,000 increased by 13.98 percent. Newspapers with circulations under 5,000 had a 15.9 percent increase in the number of employees. All other circulation categories saw decreases in overall employees, with the biggest drop, 21.58 percent, among newspapers with circulations between 100,000 and 250,000.


ASNE also surveyed online-only news sites; minorities made up about 19.2 percent of the workforce at the 47 organizations that responded. The survey, for the second year, also asked about volunteer and part-time employees at those sites. About two-thirds (66 percent) of the sites surveyed reported having at least one part-time employee, and about one-third (36.2 percent) reported having at least one volunteer contributor. More than a third (38.3 percent) of the organizations surveyed reported more volunteers and part-time contributors than full-time employees.


Minorities made up about one-sixth (17 percent) of all part-time employees and more than one-third (35.5 percent) of volunteer contributors.


Although the online-only census obtained minority percentages at each of the surveyed organizations that responded, the number of online news organization participants is too small for their collective profile to be analyzed further. Unlike the newspaper census, the online-only census can't accurately project the total number of all journalists in the online news space because of the inability to know just how large the overall population of all online news sites is.


The 2015 census was the second time that ASNE surveyed newspaper production hubs in hopes of better reflecting the employment outside of traditional newspaper newsrooms. A total of 10 hubs were surveyed.


ASNE's goal is to have the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide reflect the percentage of minorities in the nation's population by 2025. Currently, minorities make up 37.02 percent of the U.S. population; that number will increase to 42.39 percent by 2025, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Recognizing that the equity goal, set in 1978 and reaffirmed in 2000, is unlikely to be met, ASNE launched a number of initiatives focused on improving diversity in leadership and coverage.


In 2012, the ASNE Diversity Committee created the Minority Leadership Institute to train and develop up-and-coming, mid-level newsroom leaders and connect them with a network of established ASNE leaders. ASNE has hosted six institutes since the first one in 2012. This year, the first institute will be during the National Association of Black Journalists Convention & Career Fair Aug. 6-7 in Minneapolis, followed by the second one prior to the Excellence in Journalism conference Sept. 17-18 in Orlando by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. The last institute of 2015 will be prior to the ASNE conference with the Associated Press Media Editors Oct. 15-16 in Palo Alto.


In addition, ASNE has focused more heavily on diversity through community engagement in the past few years by partnering with Journalism That Matters, a nonprofit that convenes conversations to foster collaboration, innovation and action so that a diverse news and information ecosystem can thrive. Since the 2013 partnership, ASNE's Diversifying the News Committee has worked with three pilot sites focused on engagement of minority communities and launched The Engagement Hub to help news organizations learn how to better cover untapped and emerging communities and integrate more diverse voices into the news.


"Our partnership with JTM has helped us develop a greater appreciation for community relationship building, especially with people who feel they don't have a significant voice on sensitive issues, such as race," Magnuson said. "The journalist is not just an information gatherer and storyteller anymore. He or she often must be a facilitator of community conversation to find context and deeper meaning. 


"In its simplest form, it's about accuracy and credibility, but productive community engagement can also lead to problem-solving. We're going beyond reporting on problems to discover possibilities."  


Response rate lower than last year


This year, ASNE focused more on representative sampling, which is efficient for data collection and remains statistically valid. This sampling strategy was applied especially to smaller newspapers with circulations below 50,000 because the number of employees in those newsrooms tends to vary less than at larger newspapers. The response rate for larger newspapers remained similar to past years. For the 2015 census, 604 of 1,378 daily print newspapers responded to the survey, which represents 43.8 percent of all U.S. dailies. This level of participation is lower than the past three years' at about 71 percent and is attributed to a combination of factors.


Structural changes in many newsrooms have made it difficult for news organizations to fill out the census. Some of the census questions do not match the work categories of journalists in cross-platform, multi-organizational and interdisciplinary newsroom settings. ASNE will retool the 2015 survey to fit the changing realities of the news industry while maintaining the fidelity to previous census data to allow for longitudinal analysis. In a time when there are fewer traditional newsrooms and increased scrutiny on how media discuss race, gender and other diversity-oriented issues, the census needs to ask questions that go beyond parity in newsroom employment statistics.


ASNE will contact a number of respondents that submitted this year's survey and others who chose not to respond for feedback on how to reconstruct next year's census that will give a more accurate measure of the journalism produced in today's nontraditional newsrooms.  


Census procedures


The data from newspapers that returned the survey are used to project the numbers for non-responding newspapers in the same circulation range.


The survey figures reported above are weighted in this way to reflect all daily newspapers. Researchers implemented internal monitoring procedures to ensure the consistency and credibility of the employment data, including verifying newspapers' responses during survey collection to ensure respondents didn't make mistakes in entering data. The procedures used by researchers mirror those used by ASNE in the past years, and because of this constancy, the ASNE census provides highly reliable year-to-year comparisons.


Editors participating in the survey agree to have the percentage of their minority newsroom employees published by ASNE. In 2006, the ASNE Board of Directors also agreed to list the percentage for each minority group at each newspaper. A list of newspapers with their percentages is available here.