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Parity Remains Distant Dream For Hispanic Journalists

by Joseph Torres

April 23, 2000
Copyright © 2000 HISPANIC LINK NEWS SERVICE. All Rights Reserved.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors has released its annual newsroom staffing report on the nation's dailies, but it brings little joy to Hispanics and other journalists of color.

The number of non-white journalists increased by less than a third of 1 percentage point, from 11.55 percent in 1998 to 11.85 percent in 1999, the survey revealed. Currently, people of color make up 28.4 percent of the nation's population.

Released in Washington, D.C., during ASNE's April 11-14 national convention, the report comes less than a year after the association agreed to renew its efforts to ensure that the newsrooms of English-language daily papers reach parity with the nation's population.

Presence of Latino journalists increased just two-tenths of 1 percent -- from 3.46 percent to 3.68 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of the surveyed dailies, with a total newsroom work force of 56,200, responded to ASNE. They counted 2,068 Hispanics on their payrolls.

Here are the percentages people of color occupy in the hierarchy:

% Latino % Black % Asian % Native American
Supervisors 2.8 4.2 1.5 0.5
Copy/Layout 3.1 4.8 2.3 0.4
Reporters 3.8 6.2 2.3 0.6
Photographers 6.0 4.8 4.2 0.5
Total 3.7 5.3 2.4 0.5

It's notable that the figure for African Americans actually declined over the 12-month period, from 5.36 percent to 5.31 percent.

Nancy Baca, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, is quick to point out that the Latino increase doesn't even keep pace with population growth."I'm upset,'' she said."I know there are people in the industry committed to diversity, but somewhere along the line the message is lost.''

Among other findings of the survey:

Latino Presence

Population vs. Newsrooms

Population (x) Year Dailies (xx)
11.6 percent 1999 3.7 percent
1998 3.5
1997 3.5
1996 3.4
1995 3.2
1994 3.0
1993 2.8
1992 2.6
1991 2.4
1990 2.1
1989 2.1
1988 1.9
1987 1.7
1986 1.6
1985 1.5
1984 N/A
1983 N/A
6.4 percent 1982 1.2 percent
(x) -- 1982, 14.6 million
(x) -- 1999, 31.8 million
(xx) As percentage of newsroom staffs

-- The percentage of first-time hires who are people of color decreased from 18.7 percent to 17.7 percent.

-- Dailies with circulations exceeding 100,000 employ two-thirds of the journalists of color.

-- 91 percent of all supervisors working at daily papers are white.

-- 39 percent of responding newspapers said they still do not employ a single journalist of color.


In 1978, ASNE called for the nation's newsrooms to reach parity with U.S. population figures by 2000. When they failed to come close, ASNE renewed its diversity goal last year by calling for parity by 2025. By then, people of color are expected to constitute 38 percent of the U.S. population.

Latinos, now 11 percent of the population, will climb to at least 17.5 percent by that time.

While newspapers wrestle with making their newsrooms reflect the communities they serve, they also are struggling to increase their readership as more people rely on television and the Internet to receive their news.

Frank del Olmo, associate editor of The Los Angeles Times, said newspapers need to make much greater efforts to connect with communities of color, particularly young people looking at their career options."We need to convince them to become journalists rather than teachers or doctors or lawyers.''

He added, "Achieving diversity is a matter of survival. If we don't achieve diversity, then maybe we don't deserve to survive.''

The Freedom Forum, chaired by former Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Charles Overby, released a study on newsroom diversity at the convention. Sharing several statistics indicating that newspapers face an increasingly uphill battle, Overby reminded his fellow industry veterans,"Over the years, there has been more rhetoric than progress.''

The Freedom Forum report calculated that nearly half of all journalists hired between now and 2025 must be of color if the industry is to reach its latest parity goal. That amounts to 1,175 every year. Between 1994 and 1999, an average of 550 journalists of color were hired annually, while nearly 400 left the industry every year, it showed.

The numbers needed for ASNE to achieve its parity pledge are daunting.

Consensus among Latino journalists is that they are far, far greater than the industry's commitment to make it happen. But, they point out, 25 years from now, none of today's graying leaders will be around to explain why it didn't.

Joe Torres is communications director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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