Newsrooms Haven't Changed Much
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/19/2004 8:00:00 PM
There are more minorities in newsrooms than there were a year ago, but it's not like you'd notice. An annual survey by the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Ball State University shows that, on average, the percentage of minority newsroom hires hasn't changed much in a decade. In 1994, minorities made up 18.0% of the TV-newsroom workforce; this year, they are 21.8%.
"Barring some significant changes, I'm not sure it's going to get any better," says Bob Papper, professor of telecommunications at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and director of the RTNDA/Ball State annual survey on diversity.
The survey, released this summer, found that minorities' representation in the TV-newsroom workforce grew to 21.8% in 2004 from 18.1% in 2003. Half of that growth was among African-Americans; the other half, among Hispanic-Americans, who are benefiting from the boom in Spanish-language TV in the U.S. Growth among Asian-Americans declined while the percentage of Native Americans in TV newsrooms remained flat.
While any increase is good news, Papper attributes at least some of the change to survey methodology. For this year's numbers, his team contacted news directors by mail, phone, fax and, for the first time, e-mail. News directors also could fill out an online survey, a new component. By making it easier to respond, the survey drew responses from 838 news directors, 30% more than usual. "That increased response should make the data more reliable," Papper says, "but it could also make a comparison with previous years more tenuous."
What's more, even with this year's nearly 4% increase, minority hiring at TV stations isn't growing as fast as the minority population in the U.S. Since 1990, annual population growth has been nearly 7%.
Possibly, broadcasters' efforts to recruit minority hires may have lessened because the U.S. Court of Appeals kept remanding the FCC's Equal Employment Opportunity rules back to the agency. With or without rules, TV and radio stations employ far more minorities than do newspapers, which have never faced government regulation on hiring. Minorities make up 12.5% of newspaper staffs, according to the survey.
News directors say recruiting minority hires makes good business sense. "I think we are going to be more successful if we make sure that our staff mirrors the community," says Scott Diener, executive news director of Arizona News Channel, the cable news co-venture of Cox Cable and Belo Corp.'s KTVK Phoenix. "How can you cover the community if you are not part of that community?"
To aid in its efforts covering the local population, much of which is Hispanic, KTVK has offered a minority internship through Arizona State University since 1991.
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