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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

Riva Gold takes a look at recent findings on minority employment in newsrooms for The Atlantic today, and finds that cost-saving measures over the past few years have had the unintended consequence of retarding progress towards greater diversity in journalism.

Gold writes that failing to accurately represent the racial make up of the U.S. will preclude leading news organizations from fully and accurately telling the stories of non-whites in America, who now make up 37 percent of the population.

One piece of this puzzle is layoff policies and union contracts that often rewarded seniority and pushed the most recent hires to leave first. Many journalists of color have the least protected jobs because they’re the least senior employees, says Doris Truong, a Washington Post editor and acting president of Unity, an umbrella group of minority journalist organizations.

At the same time, minorities were disproportionately likely to take buyouts offered as incentives to trim newspaper payrolls, notes Keith Woods, vice president for diversity in news and operations at NPR and former dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute. “When our industry looks as it has over the last 10 years, like it might not survive, people leave — and the most vulnerable people are the ones most inclined to get out because they’ve got families to support, bills to pay,” he says.

Gold says journalists need to make the case for diversity as not just a “nice thing to do,” but an essential part of a newsroom that reports the news well. She also warns that, while online communities like Twitter bring more voices to the forefront, the existence of these platforms should not be allowed to occlude the severity of the issue.

— Caroline O'Donovan
                                   
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Ben Smith says it will be a guide through the noise of news in social media, and that journalists should realize they’re “part of a collaborative project with other news outlets.”