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Number of minorities in U.S. newsrooms continues to decline, potentially impacting how news is covered

Even as the number of minorities in the United States is increasing, the number of minorities working in newsrooms continued to decrease in 2011, according to new figures from the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Center for Advanced Social Research (CASR) at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Minorities comprise only about 12.3 percent of U.S. newsrooms, down from a high of 13.7 in 2006. This despite the fact that minorities make up roughly 36 percent of the U.S. population overall, according to 2010 Census numbers.

The newsroom census, released Wednesday April 4, also shows that overall, the number of newsroom employees in general dropped 2.4 percent since the previous year, down from 41,600 to 40,600. Still, minorities suffered even more, with the number of minority newsroom workers down 5.7 percent, from 5,300 to 5,000. As Poynter pointed out, that means 1 in 3 newsroom job cuts meant a minority was affected.

Still, if there is a bright side, it is that the decrease in newsroom jobs -- and the decrease in minority workers -- that started in 2006-2007 seems to be stabilizing, according to a press release from the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.

"Clearly, we have more work to do," Ronnie Agnew, co-chair of ASNE's 2011-12 Diversity Committee, said in the statement. "While the numbers suggest stabilization, the trend shows that the exodus from this important industry among people of color continues. This is far from just a numbers issue; this is a troubling content issue. The decline will only stop when people in leadership embrace diversity as an essential part of their business."

As Agnew pointed out, having minorities in the newsroom is important for content and how the media cover news -- an issue that has come to the forefront in recent weeks with the shooting of Black teen Trayvon Martin. As NPR noted, while coverage has been comprehensive, it has not always been accurate or fair. The Cutline argued that the Martin case has brought out the worst in the media, and NBC has launched an internal investigation into its coverage of the story, according to Media Bistro.


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