McLEAN, Va. (July 29, 2014)

UNITY: Journalists for Diversity applauds the improvement the representation of racial minorities in the nation’s newsrooms, but calls on the news industry to put more into its effort to diversify those who cover the news.

Journalists of color represented 13.34 percent of the staffs in U.S. newsrooms in 2014, up more than 1 percentage point from last year’s 12.37 percent, according to the American Society of News Editors’ 2014 census results, which were released today.

“UNITY is happy to see growth in the percentage of journalists of color working in newsrooms,” said David Steinberg, President of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity. “However, we are still below our record high (13.73) percentage in 2006,” He added.

“UNITY welcomes this opportunity to continue to work closely with ASNE and other newsroom leaders to ensure that news organizations represent the communities they cover, ” said Steinberg. UNITY alliance members have resources to help. For example, AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program, is working to train mid-career journalists to be effective newsroom leaders.

People who are racial minorities make up 37 percent of the country’s population, 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 relatively small number of racial minorities at high profile journalism startups is a sign that the industry needs to do more to make sure people from different backgrounds are involved.

The population growth in communities of color represents the single biggest growth opportunity in the news industry. The UNITY alliance is equally concerned about the gender imbalance in newsrooms, with men representing less than half of the general population, but two-thirds of those working in newsrooms.

“ASNE’s survey shows we still have a long way to go, the number of women and minorities in leadership still remains disappointingly low,” added Steinberg.

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 Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

“While we are extremely happy to hear that there are improvements in the number of minorities in news organizations, we would like ASNE to make their survey more inclusive, as there are no questions on the survey asking about the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender employees,” said Jen Christensen President of NLGJA. She added, “A diverse newsroom, is an inclusive newsroom. We hope ASNE will ask about all minorities in its next survey. NLGJA stands ready to help.”

Here are three focused areas where news leaders can make strategic investments in 2014 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 both the 2012 UNITY convention in Las Vegas and at the UNITY hosted Diversity Caucus in Washington, D.C. on March 14. 50 top journalism associations such as the American Society of News Editors, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Journalism & Women Symposium and the White House Correspondents’ Association joined innovators from J-Lab and Nieman Lab and media executives from news companies including Bloomberg News, Gannett and McClatchy to talk about the need for diversity in newsrooms.

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. In addition to NAJA’s recent conference in Santa Clara, AAJA will be in Washington D.C., August 13-16, and NLGJA will be in Chicago, August 21-24. 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 3.2 percent from the prior 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. 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. 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.


UNITY Journalists for Diversity is a strategic alliance that:

  1. Advocates fair and accurate coverage about diversity — especially race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  2. Aggressively challenges that industry to staff its organizations at all levels to reflect the country’s diversity.

The UNITY board is made up of representatives from the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, and NLGJA: The Association of LGBT Journalists.

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