The Modern Newsroom Is Stuck Behind The Gender And Color Line : NPR

Unfortunately, we do not appear to have comparable data regarding diversity in Canadian newsrooms, where likely many of the same concerns would apply:

In many of today’s newsrooms, women and journalists of color remain a sliver of those producing and reporting stories. According to studies from the American Society of News Editors, the Women’s Media Center and the advocacy group VIDA, gender and ethnic diversity in newsrooms have hardly improved in the last decade despite increasing demand for more inclusive journalism in the current round-the-clock news cycle.

Nationally, Hispanic, black and Asian women make up less than 5 percent of newsroom personnel at traditional print and online news publications, according to 2016 data from the American Society of News Editors. The organization stopped requiring that news outlets reveal their identities in an attempt to increase participation in the yearly census. Numbers from 433 news organizations that participated in 2015 and 2016 show a 5.6 percent increase in the minority workforce, now at 17 percent at print and online news sites. But the numbers lag far behind demographic shifts in a country where nearly 40 percent of Americans are part of a minority group. Around the country, local newsrooms remain largely white by most measures. (In the spirit of full disclosure, NPR’s latest diversity figures can be found here.)

In March, the Women’s Media Center released its annual report on gender representation in the media (print bylines, internet, broadcast and other outlets). The latest numbers show a tiny change — 37.7 percent of the news was credited to female journalists, according to an analysis of over 24,000 pieces of news content. Major national outlets continue to be dominated by men, and women actually lost representation in broadcast news television.

In a 2015 survey by the group VIDA: Women of the Literary Arts, magazines with a focus on news and culture, such as The New Yorker, The New Republic and Harper’s, don’t fare any better. VIDA’s numbers show that women of color (and minorities in general) are virtually absent from the political commentary and investigative journalism these magazines provide. Though nearly 20 percent of the country’s population is Hispanic, very few of these publications had a single VIDA respondent self-report as Hispanic.

The implications of this generalized absence are manifold, and begin at the storytelling level.

A September 2016 piece by Lonnae O’Neal in The Undefeated, a site that covers how sports, race and culture intersect, described how NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche — one of the country’s leading African American national sports reporters — covered the story of Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem as an act of protest. His refusal, Wyche learned, formed part of a larger outcry over police violence against black men and women. Initial reports by other outlets focused on Kaepernick as divisive and a potential distraction in the locker room. For O’Neal, who analyzed the coverage with a racial lens, the Kaepernick story raised questions “about why the country is more brown than ever but mainstream journalism is so white.”

O’Neal herself rose through the ranks as a Washington Post reporter and columnist for 24 years before joining The Undefeated. She sees her race as providing an added edge in stadiums filled with mostly black players. “Because I’m experienced, because I’m a woman, and because I’m African American, I can go right up to people and find an entry, a portal, a way to talk without layers and layers of translation,” she said. Her common background with her sources, the “cultural resonance” between them, won’t always carry the day, “but it goes a long way.”

For O’Neal, hiring women, minorities and generally journalists of diverse backgrounds is not a luxury or a matter of “different optics,” or political expedience, as recruiters typically approach the matter, but essential to the profession’s mission and longevity. A typical white, male-centric newsroom, means critical stories will continue to go unreported and news analysis will remain unbalanced.

“We need new and different lenses, people of different backgrounds thinking at the table. We’ll only be richer for having that. Why is it so hard to set as an intention? Because many folks are going to be uncomfortable with what that looks like,” O’Neal said.

In the meantime, old narratives about race and identity don’t change. Latinos are mostly U.S.-born and consist of dozens of sub-groups. But, says Dana Mastro, a professor in the department of communication at the University of California in Santa Barbara, they’re seen only in one frame — immigration.

“The idea that there are other narratives just doesn’t pan out,” said Mastro, who researches racial and ethnic stereotyping in the media with a particular interest in Latinos. “It’s immigration and almost entirely threat-driven,” she said. “You just don’t see other themes emerge, and Latinos are almost exclusively portrayed as undocumented Mexicans,” she added.

Source: The Modern Newsroom Is Stuck Behind The Gender And Color Line : Code Switch : NPR

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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