Diverse Newsrooms Can Transform Our Industry

The enormous financial pressures facing the news industry today have led too many to overlook an equally enormous opportunity for newsrooms to both support and advance diversity. That opportunity lies in developing diverse leadership to help news companies adapt to changing communities and audiences, and UNITY: Journalists of Color urges the American Society of Newspaper Editors to refocus its diversity initiatives on the promotion and retention of journalists of color in management roles, including senior management.

“Diversity in our newsrooms can make the media relevant to our communities again, and can be a key strategy in turning news organizations around,” said Karen Lincoln Michel, president of UNITY, an alliance representing more than 10,000 journalists. “Our newsrooms must change if we are to survive. But it is clear that efforts to advance diversity in the industry are not working.”

The annual census released today by the American Society of Newspaper Editors again failed to surprise, showing anemic growth (0.09%) in the percentage of minorities working in the nation’s newsrooms. “The small increase of 2 percentage points in the number of minorities in supervisory positions is a step in the right direction, but we need more journalists of color in key decision-making roles to create a significant impact,” said Michel.

“ASNE’s goal of achieving parity by 2025 seems distant and, frankly, unattainable,” Michel said. “It’s time for a new approach. We need to recognize that meaningful change starts at the top.” UNITY will be announcing a major research-based effort to demonstrate how diversity can contribute to a news organization’s ability to innovate and adapt, Michel said.

“Throughout corporate America, diversity in leadership has strengthened the bottom line; we know that will be the case in our industry as well. “We are facing a crisis of relevance. More than half of all Americans are expected to be people of color in one generation. As our markets and channels continue to narrow, diverse leadership in our newsrooms can make us more responsive to the changing needs of the communities we cover.

Now more than ever, our content must reach deeper into the hearts and minds of our diverse communities.” UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., is a strategic alliance advocating for diversity in the news coverage of communities of color as well as challenging the industry to staff its organizations with journalists who reflect the communities they serve.

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.

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