Freedom Forum Launches Database to Aid
Newsroom Diversity Efforts
The Freedom Forum has announced the launch of a database designed to help newspapers diversify their newsroom staffs through a new approach to college recruiting. The Diversity Directory provides profiles of colleges with significant populations of students of color that often are not visited by newspaper recruiters.
“Newspaper editors have told us they have trouble recruiting people of color. Through this database, we’re offering them information on often-overlooked pools of diverse talent,” says Charles L. Overby, chairman and chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum.
Newsroom diversity is one of the Freedom Forum’s three priorities. According to the most recent figures from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the number of minority journalists working at daily newspapers declined in 2000, from 11.85 percent to 11.64 percent — the first decline in 23 years. One obstacle cited by newspapers is a limited “pipeline” of promising minority candidates.
The Diversity Directory will help expand the pool of potential minority journalists and will allow editors to find and recruit talent regionally. The database contains information on 211 colleges and universities in 32 states, including tribal colleges and historically Black colleges — most of which are not usually visited by newspaper recruiters. The database can be searched by school name, by state and by ethnicity of students. It contains demographics for the school, a brief narrative about the school, and contact names and phone numbers.
All schools were visited during three semesters in 2000 and 2001 by Freedom Forum Traveling Diversity Fellows, who collected information on campuses and met with students interested in journalism. The fellows identified campuses with student publications and large populations of students of color, especially those most under-represented in journalism such as Asians and American Indians. Almost half of the schools visited by the fellows have minority student enrollments of 50 percent or more.
Visiting fellows also encouraged students to consider journalism as a career and to apply for newspaper internships, including the Freedom Forum’s Chips Quinn Scholars program.
To encourage editors to use the database and to include recruiting visits to the schools, the Freedom Forum and the Associated Press Managing Editors will award recruiting grants to small-newspaper editors. Ten $300 grants, funded by the Freedom Forum, will be given to editors at newspapers with circulations under 75,000 who visit a campus in the directory. To qualify, editors must be making their first visit to a campus, must teach a class or work with the campus newspaper during the visit, and must share with the Freedom Forum updated information about the school and students.
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