Massive job loses over the last couple of years have fallen particularly hard on people of color, hitting groups already plagued by high unemployment. It turns out this trend applies to the news business, too. According to the annual newsroom census by the American Society of Newspapers and Editors, as daily newspapers continue to hemorrhage staff, these groups are losing out at a higher rate.
Roughly 800 people of color lost their newspaper jobs last year, bringing the total down to 5,500, or just over 13 percent of all newsroom positions. The loss is particularly depressing given the disproportionate effects of the recession on minorities. The foreclosure crisis, for example, has hurt black owners much worse than white ones, so it's critical that reporters and editors reflect the populations they cover.
“Without diversity in our newsrooms we miss reporting on important stories in our communities,” said ASNE's president Marty Kaiser.
A couple other sad tidbits from the report:
— Minorities account for 11 percent of all supervisors in newsrooms, which remains virtually unchanged for the past three years.
— 465 newspapers responding to the ASNE census had no minorities on their full-time staff. This number has been growing since 2006.
One (barely) bright spot in the numbers, the proportion of minority journalists in online-only positions — “the future of news,” as enthusiasts say — is slightly higher, at 20 percent. That still pales in comparison to the overall population: about a third of the country identifies as a person of color.
The news comes on the heels of a report by the American Bar Association finding that these populations have failed to gain in the legal field either: about 90 percent of the country's lawyers and judges are white. That along with all the other fields too.
The only good news from the ASNE report is that while newspapers continue their layoffs, 2009 wasn’t as bad at the year before. Only 5,200 reporters, editors and other newsroom employees lost their jobs, down from nearly 6,000 in 2008. From the ASNE press release: “Since 2001, American newsrooms have lost more than 25 per cent of their full-time staffers bringing the total of full-time journalists working in daily newsrooms to 41,500, a level not seen since the mid-1970's.”