If Journalists Value Diversity Why Are Newsrooms So White? | WYPR

If Journalists Value Diversity Why Are Newsrooms So White?

May 17, 2017

White House press briefing room.
Credit Doug Mills/NY Times

Our country is becoming much more diverse. People of color will outnumber non-Latino, white Americans in 30 years. Are our newsrooms representative of our increasingly diverse nation? It’s a question that news organizations are grappling with across the country. Last month, NPR’s Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen published a report that said that in 2016, of the 350 employees in the NPR news division 75.4 percent were white. In the commentary Jensen wrote "There's simply no way around it: If the goal is to increase diversity in the newsroom, last year's was a disappointing showing” 

Last December, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd published a frank piece about the lack of diversity in their newsroom. Of course NPR and the New York Times are not alone. In 2014, minorities made up 22 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13 percent of journalists at daily newspapers. That’s according to the Radio Television Digital News Association and the American Society of News Editors. People of color make up about 15% of the programming staff at WYPR.

If diversity is a concept we say we value in this industry, why aren’t news organizations hiring and retaining journalists of color at higher rates?

Keith Woods is Vice President for Training and Diversity for NPR.

Richard Prince is a veteran journalist who writes “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms,” a news column on diversity issues in the media. It appears three times a week on journal-isms.com and on TheRoot.com.  Farai Chideya is an author, journalist and a fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  Her latest book is “The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption.”