Researchers report much white, little color
The results are in on U.S. news media diversity, and the news is disappointing: An average of fewer than one in five jobs in the industry is held by a racial minority.
The magazine was the last mass medium without a mechanism for tracking multiculturalism in employment. The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the largest group of media professors globally at 3,400 members, granted a request for funding from the Rev. Kyle Huckins, Ph.D., chairman of its Commission on the Status of Minorities, to perform a survey of magazine editors to fill this gap. Magazine Division officials gave input as well.
The present survey by CSM, AEJMC’s diversity advocacy arm, was conducted via the Internet in spring and summer 2017 and indicated 18 percent of magazine employees are people of color. This puts the medium in the middle of mass communication, more minority than radio and newspapers but less so than the Web and television. Averaging these individual percentages into a single number across media finds racial minorities are 19 percent of news media workers, less than half the current minority population of the U.S. (39 percent).
“The low share of media jobs held by people of color is very concerning, since scholarly research indicates reporters and editors unfamiliar with cultures tend to rely to a degree on stereotypes of them,” Huckins said. “Even those who try to avoid pigeonholing but don’t have relationships with and understanding of minorities have difficulty bridging the racial divide.”
Media are highly influential, with more than 75 million copies of magazines sold in the U.S. last year, for example, and each of the five major media types regularly reaching the majority of Americans. With so few minorities staffing these key information points in society, problems are bound to arise in an age of heightening racial tensions.
“Misperceptions often happen because of the limited view of writers and editors,” said report co-author Marquita Smith, Ed.D., also CSM vice chairwoman. “If media organizations want to improve accuracy and promote deeper truth, they are going to need to hire employees that are culturally competent as well as those who are representative of our diverse nation.”
The reasons for the lack of minorities in media are varied:
- Magazine editors say those from historically underrepresented groups tend to be less ready for the demands of professional media, with more than twice as many rated unready (32 percent) as Caucasians (14 percent).
- Comparatively few minorities get degrees in journalism or mass communication: 21 percent compared with these groups earning 31 percent of all bachelor’s degrees.
- Small markets, where most media professionals start careers, have a much lower share of minorities in the industry than large cities.
- Histories of discrimination against racial minorities by media leadership groups.
Magazine survey authors Huckins and Smith recommend:
- College and university journalism & mass communication faculty members focus on improving writing and reporting skills of students from racial minorities as well as relate realistic salary and workload outlooks to them and all students, with administrators backing professors in any resulting drop in student-approval ratings.
- Make clear to students of color the importance of interning and campus media. Scholarship funds could be raised to replace money from paid jobs or these pupils may be advised to take fewer credit hours per semester to free up time for these outlets.
- Schools, media professionals and diversity groups should plant in the minds of K-12 students from historically underrepresented groups the possibility of working in various media types and encourage them with scholarships for related degrees.
- Media professors and professionals should make students of color aware of the availability of jobs in “starter” markets and lobby particular media outlets to take on students who are well-prepared for positions.
The CSM survey used responses from 105 magazine editors nationwide to an email outlining the purpose and scope of the study as well as providing a link to an Internet-based questionnaire of 12 questions on race and gender of current employees and interns, trends in the recent past, readiness of job candidates, and qualities considered in hiring workers and selecting students.