Joanna Hernandez portrait

The 2011 newsroom census report by the American Society of News Editors is out, and the news continues to be bad for journalists of color.

The percentage of African American, Asian, Latino and Native American journalists has declined in U.S. newsrooms for a third year in a row — while at the same time, the number of professional journalists increased.

This is why the work of each alliance partner and the efforts of UNITY: Journalists of Color are more important than ever.

Separately, the Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Native American Journalists Association do great and crucial work.

Collectively, we are a powerhouse.

We are a rainbow of different cultural experiences working together.

We are helping to shape the future of our country, and everyone who sits around the common table helps to advance the cause together.

As ASNE’s report shows, however, the reality is that our voices are shrinking in the media.

About 20 years ago, UNITY was born. It was comprised of an alliance with shared interests, including improving the industry’s coverage of communities of color and increasing job opportunities for journalists of color.

Some strides were made. But in recent years, with the long and steady recession, media employers began letting go of its workers and out the door with them went many of the advancements journalists of color have made.

Take a look around your workplace, and I bet you will see this reality: that in most if not all newsrooms, we are back to square one. The needle has not moved at all, and any progress made has been reversed.

The collective voice of UNITY sends a powerful message to those who discount the contributions of any minority, because the sad fact is that if you have issues with one group, you probably have issues with all minorities.

ASNE’s census report makes it clear that to increase coverage of communities of color and improve job opportunities for journalists of color, now is the time to pump up the volume louder than ever.

The future of the industry and the diversity of its voices dangle precariously in the balance and depend on us to make it happen.

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