The hues behind the news

Is diversity really alive in America's newsrooms?

Despite some progress, newsrooms across the country still have a long way to go to achieve racial diversity. In 1978, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 3.95% of journalists working on daily newspapers were minorities. In two decades, that number has crept up to 11.46% (with African Americans making up 5.38%). In the magazine industry, the situation is even worse. The advertising trade journal Mediaweek reports that only 6.1% of the professional staff on magazines are people of color.

Minority broadcast journalists, however, have fared better, due in large part to the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Since 1970, the FCC has tied in a station’s minority and women recruitment efforts with its licensing renewals. The percentage of minorities in upper-level broadcasting jobs (i.e., news director, assistant news director, producer) increased from 6.8% in 1971 to almost 22% in 1998.

Last April, however, the EEO guide- lines were thrown out in a court ruling, becoming another casualty of the war against affirmative action. Despite the legal setback, William E. Kennard, the first African American to head the FCC, and national media owners vowed to maintain their commitment to diversity. But will broadcast owners prove their good-faith adherence to the spirit of the law or become more like their print media cohorts? Only time will tell.

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