Minority Journalism Group Discouraged By Slow Progress

Minority Journalism Group Discouraged By Slow Progress
Of Diversifying Broadcast Newsrooms

Blacks working in radio dropped from 7.3 percent in 2003 to 0.7 percent in 2004

ARLINGTON, Va.
UNITY: Journalists of Color has expressed deep disappointment with the dismal results from the annual broadcast newsroom survey conducted by the Radio and Television News Directors Association and Ball State University. Released in July, 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. Minority journalists working in local radio also experienced a decline, dropping from 11.8 percent to 7.9 percent. English-language television stations also saw diversity dip slightly, moving from 19.8 percent to 19.5 percent.

Minority representation in local radio has plummeted 50 percent since 1998, when stringent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules were eliminated. Journalists of color made up 16 percent of the radio work force 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,” says UNITY President Mae Cheng. “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.”

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 disappeared completely in 2004, after holding 2.7 percent of the jobs in 2003.

“These numbers are so disheartening that I am almost speechless. They are as astounding as they are disappointing,” says Herbert Lowe, a reporter at Newsday and president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

American Indians 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,” says Dan Lewerenz, president of the Native American Journalists Association and a member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska. “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. 



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