What can newsrooms do to recruit more people from diverse backgrounds, and encourage more minorities into leadership roles? What opportunities, if any at all, are really out there for aspiring journalists of color to enter the field? What does it feel like — really feel like, on a day-to-day level — to be one of the very few people of color in a media organization? (New data from ASNE
released this week found that only about 12 percent of journalists in newspaper newsrooms surveyed were non-white — a number slightly lower than a decade ago — and many corners of the broadcast and online journalism world don’t fare much better.)
A lively discussion on all of the above and more has been taking place on Twitter for the past day and a half, spurred by CNN politics reporter and former New York Times writer Tanzina Vega and other journalists like Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch and Latoya Peterson of Fusion. (It’s still going strong: look out for the hashtag #mediadiversity to follow the conversation.)
The outpouring of responses has been a mix of disheartening and inspiring, as journalists shared current statistics on newsroom diversity as well as deeply personal stories of how they struggled to get their first big break into the news business. Here are Vega and Lydia Polgreen of The New York Times:
Here’s Demby on how he first joined the Times at age 24:
Many highlighted the isolation of working in a mostly-white newsroom:
And the importance of a network of other writers of color:
Others weighed in on the need for diversity among editors too, not just journalists:
As of last year, minority groups made up 22.4 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13.34 percent of journalists at daily papers — but account for more than 37 percent of the U.S. population. The problem, as Alex T. Williams points out, is not that minorities aren’t interested, the problem may be in the hiring process: 49 percent of minorities who studied print or broadcasting in college landed a full-time job, compared to 66 percent of white graduates.
The conversation about media diversity on Twitter opens up a window into what remains to make newsrooms more representative of the demographics they serve.