Study Finds Newsroom Racial Bias Persists

A RECENTLY released national study debunks the conventional wisdom that minority journalists give up on the newspaper business more readily than their white counterparts."Fact is, minority journalists do leave newspapers more regularly than do white journalists, but to go [to] other newspaper jobs, not to leave the business," states the report. "Anxious to move up the ladder, they take advantage of their market value to climb as quickly as they can." The study, "The Newsroom Barometer: Job Satisfaction and the Impact of Racial Diversity at U.S. Daily Newspapers," was released at the convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Boston this month. Ted Pease, chairman of the journalism department at Saint Michael's College in Vermont, and J. Frazier Smith, assistant journalism professor at Ohio University, surveyed 1,328 journalists at 27 US newspapers with circulations greater than 50,000. At the end of 1990, minority journalists made up only 8.72 percent of the newsroom staffs at daily newspapers. Fifty-one percent of all dailies in the US still employed no minorities in the newsroom. The study found that: * Minority journalists are twice as likely to say that race affects assignments and promotions. * Only 35 percent of whites say a "glass ceiling" blocks advancement for minorities and women at their newspapers; 71 percent of minorities say the obstacle exists. * Half of all white journalists surveyed say their newspapers' coverage of minority community concerns is poor or marginal; 71 percent of minority journalists say such coverage is lacking. * Seventy-two percent of minority journalists think managers doubt the abilities of their minority employees; only 35 percent of whites think so. "If there is a big loser in this study, it is the newsroom manager," says Professor Smith. The study finds that managers generally think newsroom morale is higher than it actually is. About 90 percent of all the respondents say they are satisfied with their choice of a newspaper career. But many journalists express pessimism and concern about the future of the industry. "Being a newspaper reporter is like being a cowboy on a dinosaur ranch," wrote a California reporter in responding to the survey. Only 54 percent of those surveyed say they would want their child to choose a career in journalism. In response to the question, a black female journalist asked, "Will there be newspapers in 25 years?" "Reaching out to all the readers in your community makes business sense," Smith argues. As the report states, "The whole reason for increasing and retaining diversity in the newsroom is to make newspapers better equipped to cover a changing American society."

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