by Tracie Morales
The percentage of Hispanic journalists employed in the nation’s English-language newsrooms declined slightly in 2006 from the year before for the first time in 29 years that the American Society of Newspaper Editors has been keeping track.
It is the second time during this decade that representation of all journalists of color has seen a drop from a previous year.
According to a report released during ASNE’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. D.C., March 27-30, while the number of Latinos working in newsrooms of the country’s daily papers increased from 7,600 in 2005 to 7,800 in 2006, the Hispanic presence dropped from 4.51 percent of newsroom personnel to 4.41 percent. The number of whites in the newsroom increased by 2,000, from 47,208 to 49,219 in that period.
The percentage of all journalists of color —Hispanics, blacks, Asians and Native Americans—decreased from 13.87 percent to 13.62 percent.
Hispanics alone represent more than 14 percent of the U.S. population, and people of color make up a third of it.
In 1978, ASNE started its campaign to diversify the industry at a time when persons of color represented 3.95 percent of newsroom personnel, by setting the goal of achieving parity by the year 2000.
In 1998, failing to meet its benchmarks, it moved its goal to 2025. Industry leaders are increasingly pessimistic of the new deadline.
“I don’t think we are going to reach parity by the time we’ve set,” Gilbert Bailón, incoming ASNE president and president/editor of the Dallas-based Al Día, told Weekly Report. “There are just too many mountains to climb when it comes to diversity, both in recruitment and retention,”
UNITY: Journalists of Color, stated that with such slow progress, it would take 40 years to reach parity with the current U.S. population.
But in 40 years, the organization emphasized, people of color will comprise about half of the total population.
Rafael Olmeda, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists stated, “We are asked to adapt to changes in the industry…is it too much to ask the industry to adapt to changes in the U.S. population?”
Diana Fuentes, executive editor of the Laredo Morning Times, stressed to Weekly Report that editors should not give up the fight. “It is not easy, but it can be done,” she said. “We have made a lot of strides. 8ut we need more commitment. It takes everybody to produce diversity.
Iván Román, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told Weekly Report that diverse newsrooms and smart business strategies go “hand in hand.” He said that newspaper budgets should be dedicated to reaching new readership.
He added the Parity Project, which NAHJ launched in April 2003, has successfully placed more than 160 Latinos in full-time positions at more than 20 participating companies. ~We’ve shown it can be done,” Roman said. “It takes will from the top to understand they must do it if they want to survive as news media.”
The ASNE survey was distributed to 1,415 daily newspapers; only 932 responded.
This is the first time the survey included online newspersons.
Online journalists of color comprise 16 percent of the nearly 2,000 news personnel working on their publications’ Web sites.
Latinos remained severely under-represented in large-size newspapers when compared to the number of Hispanics in those publication’s circulation areas, according to a report from the Miami-based Knight Foundation which used 2000 U.S. Census data. A report based on census projections for 2005 will be released in the fall.
For example, Hispanics make up 5.9 percent of the Los Angeles Times staff, but its circulation area is 38.3 percent Latino, according to the foundation. Staffs at the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post are each 4.3 percent Latino; but they have circulation areas that are 11.7 percent and 8.5 percent Latino, respectively. Among other major dailies that had major percentage disparities were (Knight circulation figures in parenthesis): The New York Times 4.0 percent (11.7 percent); USA Today 3.1 percent (12.5 percent); The Dallas Morning News 6.1 percent (21.2 percent); The Wall Street Journal 4.5 percent ( 12.5 percent); The Miami Herald 19.2 percent (47.1 percent).
In 2006, the number of newspapers reporting no journalists of color increased from 377 to 392, according to ASNE.