Unity Discouraged by Slow Progress of Diversifying Broadcast Newsrooms
UNITY: Journalists of Color is disappointed with the dismal results from the annual broadcast newsroom survey conducted by the Radio and Television News Directors Association and Ball State University. Released on July 11, the report found that over the past 15 years, the presence of journalists of color in broadcast newsrooms has only increased 3.4 percent.
The survey showed that employment of people of color in local television broadcast newsrooms declined from 21.8 percent in 2003 to 21.2 percent in 2004. Journalists of color working in local radio also experienced a decline from 11.8 percent to 7.9 percent. The percentage of people of color at English-language television stations also dropped from 19.8 percent to 19.5 percent.
UNITY is discouraged by the fluctuation of the percentage of journalists of color working in local radio over the past couple of years. The percentage of people of color in radio has dropped 50 percent since 1998 when stringent EEOC rules were eliminated. Journalists of color made up 16 percent of the radio workforce that year.
“The data should be a wake up call to the industry that we can no longer be complacent about finding qualified journalists of color to fill jobs. From the highest rungs of management to entry-level managers, each needs to take responsibility for ensuring that the number of journalists of color in the newsroom does not continue to decline. UNITY advocates for greater diversity to help ensure fair and accurate coverage of the increasingly diverse communities newsrooms across the country are covering,” UNITY President Mae Cheng said today.
African Americans working at local TV stations remained constant at 10.3 percent over the past two years. However, their percentage in radio dropped significantly from 7.3 percent in 2003 to 0.7 percent in 2004. The report showed that African American radio news directors experienced a dramatic decline falling from 2.7 percent in 2003 to 0 percent in 2004.
“These numbers are so disheartening that I am almost speechless. They are astounding as they are disappointing,” said president of the National Association of Black Journalists Herbert Lowe, reporter at Newsday. “We call on all broadcast general managers and station owners, and practically those in radio to take what ever steps necessary to increase the numbers of black news directors right away.”
Native Americans working in local television newsrooms dropped from 0.5 percent in 2003 to 0.3 percent in 2004. Their presence in radio increased slightly, inching from 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent.
“It's disturbing to see Native representation falling, both in radio and in television,” said Dan Lewerenz (Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska), president of the Native American Journalists Association. “This survey shows short-term gains in radio, where Native people make up just half of 1 percent of the work force. But that's down from 1 percent a decade ago. Our numbers are even lower in television, at one third of 1 percent. That, too, is just half of what it was a decade ago. If the industry is going to reverse this trend, then news directors -- especially those in and around Indian Country -- need to go the extra mile in identifying, training and recruiting Native journalists.”
The report showed that Hispanics working in local television dropped from 8.9 percent in 2003 to 8.7 percent in 2004, while Hispanics working in radio increased from 3.9 percent in 2003 to 6.0 percent in 2004.
In reaction to the survey, Veronica Villafañe, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said, “There’s no excuse for a lack of growth in Latinos in the newsroom. We’re the fastest growing minority in the United States and yet, that’s still not reflected on the air, behind the scenes or in key decision making positions in television stations around the country. If help in finding qualified Latino journalists is what they need in making change, NAHJ is here to help. So far, only two television stations have accepted our offer to join the Parity Project, which seeks to help newsrooms in the quest for increased diversity. It’s up to each station to take the initiative to promote change.”
The report found that Asian Americans dropped again this year from 2.2 percent in 2003 to 1.9 percent in 2004. This is the fourth consecutive year that they experienced a decrease in the workforce. Even so, Asian Americans increased their presence in radio climbing from 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent. The percentage of news directors remained the same at 1.3 percent.
“For the past few years AAJA has been working to train and attract more Asian American journalists into the field, particularly Asian males. It’s disheartening to hear that our numbers further dropped to a level even lower than our numbers in 1995, considering that Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the U.S.,” said Esther Wu President of the Asian American Journalists Association. “Our numbers should be going up not down. We implore news directors to work with us to reverse the trend.”
About UNITY: Journalists of Color
UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. is a strategic alliance advocating news coverage about people of color, and aggressively challenging its organizations at all levels to reflect the nation’s diversity. UNITY, representing more than 10,000 journalists of color, is comprised of four national associations: Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.
In addition to planning the largest regular gathering of journalists in the nation, UNITY develops programs and institutional relationships that promote its mission. For more information on UNITY, visit www.unityjournalists.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (703) 469-2100.
Contact: Anna M. Lopez, Executive Director, UNITY, 703-469-2100, email@example.com