Loss of Diversity in the Newsroom Another Consequence of the Crisis Facing Journalism

We know that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected African Americans, Latinos and people of color due to historical and structural racism that informs concerns like access to healthcare and because many frontline and essential workers, from healthcare workers to those who keep the food supply chain running, are black and brown. This was first evident in anecdotal reporting and later confirmed by data. We believe the crisis facing journalism is also disproportionately affecting African Americans and people of color, both in and out of the newsroom. But we may have lost the ability to confirm this through data since the Newsroom Diversity Survey, developed by the American Society of News Editors, has been delayed indefinitely

No data has been collected for this effort since 2018. And while some news organizations self-report on the diversity of their newsrooms, the overwhelming majority do not. Self-reporting is subject to selection bias from newsrooms with good stories to tell on diversity and is no substitute for industry-wide data. 

One example that we know of is the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In the past two months, the Plain Dealer announced it would lay off 22 more newsroom staff. Additionally, it shifted those reporters that remained to focus on the suburban counties surrounding Cleveland.  Now in urban areas most populated by people of color, coverage of the issues most pertinent to them are being dramatically reduced. 

The following is a statement from Nick Charles, spokesperson for the Save Journalism Project and former journalist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“It has been an enormous struggle to improve diversity in America’s newsrooms. This survey data has been a critical component of pushing the industry forward. If this survey does not return, we would be reverting back to a time where people of color did not matter and neither did the issues that impacted their communities. Reporters of color knew that COVID-19 would likely disproportionately affect minority communities and they drove critical reporting on this phenomenon. Without diverse representation in our newsrooms, the quality of our journalism will suffer. In order to provide Americans with accurate information about ALL communities, America’s newsrooms must more closely resemble the communities they cover. ”