Newsrooms typically lack diversity

“Newspaper fire orange” by NS Newsflash is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reporters that belong to marginalized groups have found job opportunities few and far between as newsrooms across the U.S. have a more homogenous staff of writers.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, as of fall 2018, two newsrooms in a largely diverse city, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, were “both 81 percent white.” With numbers like this in the city nicknamed ‘the melting pot,’ the diversity of newsrooms across the U.S. can be examined closer.

Publications are tasked with reporting stories of all people. Most reporters are meant to be impartial storytellers who are tasked with delivering articles without bias or opinion. However, there are instances where bias can change the way news is delivered.

In a segment on racial bias in crime reporting for WNYC Studios, Brooke Gladstone and research analyst Nazol Ghandnoosh discussed the crime statistics reported by news outlets.

Ghandnoosh’s research had shown them that there were newspapers in the U.S. guilty of choosing to report more crimes committed by African Americans with white victims despite that making up 10 percent of crimes.

“The media oversamples crime committed by people of color and over samples how often whites are the victims of crime committed by people of color,” Ghandnoosh said.

Reporters have a duty to seek out the truth in their stories. This racial bias that can exist in reporters in the newsroom is a danger to the credibility of any publication, yet most publications still struggle with diversifying their staff.

A Twitter poll asked gender and/or race minorities if they felt adequately represented in their fields. Of the 28 votes received, 85.7 percent answered ‘no’ while 14.3 percent answered ‘yes.’ The majority of participants in this survey were journalists with a few tech and medical professionals.

According to a 2016 report from the American Society of News Editors, Hispanic, Asian and Black women makeup less than five percent of newsroom personnel at publications across the country.

Of that nearly five percent, there have been journalists who have not experienced the most supportive work environment. Refinery29 is a publication that is targeted at women readers, yet its co-founder, Christine Barberich, stepped down from her editor position in 2020 after reports of a toxic work environment.

The conversation of this work environment was sparked by a former senior editor Ashley Alese Edwards’ tweet suggesting that the publication pay their black workers fairly and address microagressions in the newsroom.

Her tweet prompted writer Ashley C. Ford to weigh in with her experience as a Black woman at Refinery29. According to Ford, there were other Black women at the publication being “overworked and under-appreciated.”

Barberich took to Instagram to respond to the grievances of Ford and Edwards.

“And, so I will be stepping aside in my role at R29 to help diversify our leadership in editorial and ensure this brand and the people it touches can spark a new defining chapter,” Barberich said.

The environment at Refinery29 was allowed to run uncheck until 2020. Ultimately, Ford and Edwards parted ways with the publication to find other work.

These two Black women felt so ostracized by their place of work that they felt that the best option was to leave, and that speaks volumes to the lack of diversity in newsrooms.

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Jordan Hart

Jordan Hart

Texas journalist with bylines in the Houston Business Journal, HC Magazine, the Daily Cougar and Cooglife magazine. Business, travel, features, more!