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News industry diversity in the U.S. - statistics & facts

Reporting workforce diversity data is becoming more and more commonplace in the United States. There are growing calls for increased representation of minority groups and expectations for companies to reveal their performance in this regard, and some industries are placed under greater scrutiny than others. One which is often overlooked is the news industry, despite its ability to polarize audiences and the level of influence it exerts on American society.

Consumers in the United States believe there should be more diversity in journalism and there is a rising number of debates advocating for adequate proportions of underrepresented groups in the U.S. news workforce. Such arguments suggest that diversity in news is vital in meeting audience’s needs and telling their stories.

Consumer attitudes to diversity in U.S. news

A survey held in the United States looking at the need for news organizations to hire more reporters to increase diversity showed that the main area of concern was racial representation. The results revealed that 35 percent of all respondents believed that there was a need for better racial representation in journalism, a figure which climbed to more than 40 percent among Hispanic and Asian Americans and 60 percent among Black adults. Views on how news reflects diversity in the U.S. also vary according to ethnicity, with Hispanic adults especially critical of how well the news media performs in terms of portraying the diversity of the U.S. population.

How diverse are major news companies?

There is work to be done before news companies can claim to have achieved diversity among their staff. A breakdown of the ethnicity of New York Times employees exposed the gap between the share of White employees versus people of color working for the company between 2015 and 2020, during which time the percentage of employees from underrepresented ethnic groups grew by just ten percent. Whilst this marks a step towards increased racial diversity within The New York Times, progress is slow and a change of pace is needed. Competitor The Washington Post fared less well. The distribution of employees by ethnicity at The Washington Post showed that the proportion of White employees remained unchanged over the course of the five years analyzed in the report whilst the share of Black or African American people working for the company fell by seven percent.

The breakdown of Washington Post employees by gender also underwent very little change, whereas gender representation at The New York Times improved during the same time period. Mass media company Gannett reported almost even gender distribution in early 2021, but also had a predominantly white workforce. The share of Gannett’s employees which were White at that time was the same as the figure for The New York Times in 2015, leaving the USA Today owner behind other major publications.

There is a long road ahead before the U.S. news industry will truly represent the diversity of the American population. However, keener awareness among consumers, ongoing debates in and around the industry, and pledges made by companies themselves will likely lead to continued progress. If more steps are taken and expectations are met, in a few years the U.S. news industry could look very different.

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