Tuesday, August 24, 2021

News Industry Steps Up Recruitment of Diverse Leaders

Newspaper Press at Dallas Morning News

With much of corporate America targeting greater diversity in its management ranks, news companies are taking steps to close the gap, offering a glimpse at what more representative leadership might bring in an industry that has lagged behind, according to Bloomberg.

The Associated Press appointed the first woman and person of color to helm the news agency this month. In Texas, both the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle named their first Black top editors in July. And in TV, Black women now run the news divisions of ABC News and MSNBC for the first time.

These leaders are taking over to improve coverage and broaden their audiences at a time of crisis in the industry, with about 300 newspapers closing over the past three years and revenue expected to continue to decline. On top of those challenges, some of these editors say they face other obstacles their predecessors didn’t, like a perception they were promoted not because they were qualified, but because of the color of their skin.

Their staffs remain over-represented by White journalists. More than three-fourths (77%) of newsroom employees working at newspapers, broadcasters or digital publishers are White, compared with 65% of U.S. workers overall, according to a 2018 analysis by Pew Research Center.

The newspaper industry’s financial troubles have led to years of layoffs and hiring freezes. That’s long served as an excuse for the failure to hire more Black and Hispanic journalists, despite the benefits they bring in helping outlets better reflect their communities, according to Richard Prince, who runs a website that tracks diversity trends in the news business.

“But where there’s a will there’s a way,” he said.

Of the 20 largest U.S. daily newspapers, about half are now led by a woman or a person of color or both, according to Nieman Lab. In 2014, three of the 25 largest newspapers had women as the top editor and 15% of American newspapers had a person of color in one of the top three newsroom roles.

In TV news, Black women in the top jobs often take a special interest in mentoring other Black women journalists because “they don’t want to be the last ones in those positions,” said Ava Thompson Greenwell, a journalism professor at Northwestern University. Only 4% of TV news directors are Black, according to a survey of TV stations from RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

But Black women are also frequently the target of micro-aggressions, such as subordinates who question their competence, refuse to take their orders or offer them backhanded compliments, said Greenwell, who interviewed about 40 Black female journalists for her book “Ladies Leading: The Black Women Who Control Television News.”

“The good news is that they are there,” Greenwell said. “The bad news is they aren’t always afforded the deference they deserve.”

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