By Jennifer Neutel
UNITY, ASNE and JTM project leaders express interest in collaborating
Last week’s release of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) 2014 Newsroom Census prompted new discussions and possible collaborations between organization leaders to move forward on diversity and engagement goals.
The census revealed the number of minority journalists in daily-newspaper newsrooms increased by a couple of hundred in 2013, even with an overall newsroom employment decline of 3.2 percent. In 63 percent of newsrooms surveyed there is at least one woman among the top three editors.
UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, a strategic alliance of three journalism organizations representing thousands of journalists, responded that while the increase in percentage of journalists of color working in newsrooms is encouraging they welcome the opportunity to work with ASNE and other newsroom leaders to ensure representation of the communities they cover.
The employment census has been released annually since 1978. For more than 10 years, the percentage of minority journalists has been between 12-14 percent. ASNE aims to have the percentage of minorities in newsrooms nationwide reflecting the percentage in the nation’s population by 2025. With minorities currently making up 37 percent of the U.S. population, ASNE realizes its goal is unlikely to be met and has launched a number of initiatives focused on improving diversity in leadership and coverage.
Among efforts of the ASNE Diversity Committee is a partnership with Journalism That Matters (JTM), a non-profit that convenes conversations to foster collaboration, innovation and action for a diverse news and information ecosystem.
The ASNE and JTM project has created a website called The Engagement Hub to foster stories, conversations and connections and is working with three individual pilot sites that are committed to community engagement: We Create Here (The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa); Unite Rochester (Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.); and Oakland Voices (The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, Calif.).
“Gone are the days of simply reporting facts from traditional sources cultivated through a newsroom silo,” Karen Magnuson, editor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and chair of the ASNE Diversity Committee, states.
“Community engagement is essential to build an accurate, meaningful and interactive news report that authentically reflects the diversity of the community.”
UNITY noted the alliance is “heartened” by ASNE’s partnership with JTM, citing engaging diverse communities as one area where news leaders can make a strategic investment this year. UNITY also urged the ASNE/JTM partnership to tap the expertise and network of its alliance partners.
Magnuson met with UNITY’s President David Steinberg and Executive Director Roberto Quiñones Aug. 1 at the National Association of Black Journalists conference. She stressed the power of engagement as a complement to diversity efforts in hiring, promotion and retention. UNITY is looking to create a committee focusing on engagement that will work with ASNE/JTM leaders.
“We’re pleased that UNITY is interested in our project and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. The Engagement Hub is up and running and we can use it to collaborate on creative ways to advance the cause,” Magnuson says.
Quiñones says he left the meeting feeling optimistic and notes Magnuson is a leader in the field who is using her talent to advance diversity. They discussed ways the three organizations could better work together, which is of interest to UNITY, he adds.
UNITY can serve as the “diversity department” for many organizations, Quiñones says, noting the alliance is looking at how to engage with others to help with various projects, programs and events.
Peggy Holman, Journalism That Matters executive director, says the project seeks to grow a peer-to-peer learning network around engagement so journalism can better meet the needs of the country’s increasingly diverse communities.
“We see our work as a complement to focusing on diversity in hiring, promotion and retention,” Holman says.
Having UNITY as a partner in this work would be a “wonderful way to expand engagement activities,” she says, noting some ways they could work together include connecting on the Engagement Hub discussion group, sharing UNITY member’s stories of engagement and hosting sessions on topics of mutual interest.
“I believe that when news organizations engage their community, not only do people come away better informed, they are more likely to get involved in civic life. That strikes me as right at the heart of the purpose of journalism,” Holman says.
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