While research shows that newsrooms are growing more diverse, a majority of journalists feel their staffs don’t accurately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the populations they serve.
Those findings from two recent studies show the urgent need to emphasize diversity and inclusivity in newsrooms and accelerate the incremental progress being made within the industry.
“Diversity is more than race, it’s more than gender, it’s all of the things,” said Keonte Coleman, assistant professor of broadcast and digital journalism at the Newhouse School. He also serves as the director of assessment and program review.
“We just have to do better and all of us can do better,” said Coleman, who teaches courses in broadcast journalism, sports media and diversity, equity and inclusion in media.
More than half of journalists feel their newsrooms do not have enough racial and ethnic diversity, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey. It also found that female journalists or journalists aged 18-29 were more likely to notice a lack of diversity in newsrooms than men or older journalists.
According to a separate study — the 2022 American Journalist Study — the number of minorities in the newsroom has risen from almost 11% in 2013 to 18% in 2022, with women holding 54% of all minority journalism positions in the country. The study is conducted by the American Journalist Project, which is housed at the Newhouse School.
The report suggests that efforts by media organizations to hire minorities over the past few years have been somewhat successful because about one-third of journalists with less than five years’ experience are minorities.
Responsibility also rests with journalism schools and higher education leaders.
Newhouse has partnered with the Scripps Howard Fund to launch the Scripps Howard Leadership Academy at Newhouse. The weeklong intensive training program, to be held in July 2023, is designed for leaders in higher education, including deans, associate deans, department chairs and faculty, as well as experienced journalists.
The program’s goal is to educate and prepare attendees to pursue and succeed in leadership roles at journalism and mass communications schools. Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility practices, and the connection between academia and industry, is a focus area of the program.
The Leadership Academy will bring together ideas and best practices for journalism and mass communications leaders to set the example for fostering diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible environments, and to help their newsrooms flourish. Topics will focus on how leaders can build programs that reflect the communities they serve.
Journalism can’t be successful without a strong level of trust by the audience, said Mike Canan, director of journalism strategies for the Scripps Howard Fund.
“To build that trust, newsrooms and newsroom leadership must reflect the communities being served. We need all perspectives playing active roles in newsrooms,” Canan said.
“Fixing journalism’s diversity problem starts with the pipeline,” he added. “And there’s no better way to address that pipeline than making sure the next generation of journalism school leaders are prepared to make sure all are recruited, developed and encouraged.”
Other key topics covered during the Leadership Academy include fundraising and budgeting, faculty relations and academic affairs and institutional leadership. Coleman, a graduate of the program when it was previously held at Louisiana State University, said the experience allowed him to gain firsthand knowledge from leaders about their roles and how they navigated unexpected challenges.
“It also allowed me to create a network of current and future leaders to lean on to discuss potential scenarios,” added Coleman, who aspires to be a dean of a journalism and communications school. He plans to teach a session and serve as a panelist at the Leadership Academy at Newhouse.
“Everything I’ve worked on and have done has been about making the media world more diverse and inclusive,” Coleman said. “I’ve always gravitated toward looking at what are the leaders doing, because all the research talks about how it has to be a top-down approach for it to work.”
He’s encouraged when he sees the upward trends found in the American Journalist Study, though he warns the numbers may be more related to responses to heated cultural touchstone issues of the last few years, including the 2020 murder of George Floyd, pandemic-related violence against Asians and the #MeToo movement.
“The local mass media should be representative of the markets,” Coleman said, “because they tend to be the ones that people naturally turn to, and that matters.”