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UNITY Calls on News Industry to Make Diversity a Business Mandate

June 25, 2013  
 
Media Contact:
Walt Swanston, Interim Executive Director
walt@unityjournalists.org
(703) 854-3594

McLEAN, Va. — UNITY: Journalists for Diversity calls on the news industry to make diversity a business imperative as the multi-year decline in newsroom diversity shows signs of stabilizing.

Journalists of color represented 12.37 percent of the staffs in U.S. newsrooms in 2013, about the same percentage as in the previous year, according to the American Society of News Editors’ 2013 census results, which were released today.

“UNITY welcomes opportunities to work closely with ASNE and other newsroom leaders to ensure that the staffs of the 21st century can effectively tell the stories of our communities, whose makeup is rapidly changing,” said Doris Truong, acting president for UNITY.

The United States is now 37 percent minority, according to the latest U.S. census report. By 2043, the U.S. will be a majority-minority country, with people of color outnumbering the white population. Any news media organization that hopes to remain in business must produce stories that serve those readers.

The ballooning of communities of color represents the single biggest growth opportunity in the news industry, especially as news organizations aim to increase revenue through digital subscriptions.

The UNITY alliance is equally concerned about ossifying of the newsroom gender imbalance, with men representing two-thirds of news organizations surveyed.

UNITY’s alliance partners stand ready to help companies, ASNE and other journalism leaders capitalize on this opportunity to win new subscribers, which in turn will attract new advertisers. Our alliance partners are the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Here are three focused areas where news leaders can make strategic investments in 2013 that will have a lasting impact:

 

Diversify the digital side of the newsroom: The UNITY alliance applauds the work ASNE has done to develop minority news leaders through training at the 2012 UNITY convention in Las Vegas and this week at the ASNE convention in Washington, D.C. We encourage ASNE to continue this work and to seek other opportunities to develop minority leaders in digital news, where hiring remains stronger than elsewhere in newsrooms.

Our alliance conventions will bring together thousands of journalists where news organizations can recruit: NAJA will convene on July 18-21 in Tempe, Ariz.; AAJA on Aug. 21-24 in New York City; NLGJA on Aug. 22-25 in Boston; and NAHJ on Aug. 24-26 in Anaheim, Calif. We invite ASNE to send board members to each of the conventions and to engage in person with each association’s president to discuss how we can move forward together.

 

Diversify the coverage: The public and our industry need a fresh, innovative, intense approach to diversifying coverage for a Web 2.0 world. Newsroom employment is decreasing, falling 6.4 percent from 2012 to 2013, ASNE reports. Depending solely on new hiring to increase diversity of coverage will not work in this new reality. We urge news editors to lead in diversifying coverage with existing staff, which will win new subscribers.

This year, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the Asian American Journalists Association partnered on the Diversity in the Heartland project, traveling to newsrooms in Alabama and Nebraska to encourage more inclusive coverage of these two minority groups in markets where they aren’t often covered. Stories about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities and people of color often do not receive balanced coverage. Issues of race, sexual orientation and gender identity are often subject to coverage that is not fair and balanced.

 

Engage diverse communities: News is no longer a one-way conversation. The browning and greening of readers, by race and age, has created an expectation of a two-way dialogue. There is much more to be done. News organizations have only just scratched the surface with online commenting, social media and virtual tools such as online live chats.

UNITY is heartened by ASNE’s partnership with Journalism That Matters. We urge this partnership to go a step further and tap the expertise and network of our alliance partners.

We call on news organizations to take it to the street, and engage diverse communities in person in their own cities and neighborhoods. AAJA, for instance, recently was awarded $100,000 by the Kellogg Foundation to hold an educational forum in New York and six media-access training workshops across the country. News organizations that actively support these workshops by sending newsroom editors and reporters will deepen relationships with the Asian American community.

Our alliance is deeply appreciative of ASNE’s commitment to increase newsroom diversity and for the resources the organization invests in this annual census. We look forward to working with ASNE’s leadership through our alliance partners to ensure that the nation’s news and newsrooms represent the full diversity of America.

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About UNITY: Journalists for Diversity

UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, an alliance of four journalism organizations representing more than 4,000 journalists, is the nation’s most diverse journalism organization. A coalition of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association, UNITY is a strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about people of color and LGBT issues and aggressively challenges news organizations to increase diversity in whom they employ at all levels of their companies.

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