An important issue “Fit to Print” will be covering is the lack of minorities seen within newsrooms. During the course of filming thus far, we have done a great deal of research into how newspapers [television and radio news as well] have traditionally failed to hire minority employees.
Making progress for change within the newspaper industry has traditionally been slow. Just look to how the industry failed to invest in digital newsroom technologies during the 80’s and 90’s for a clear example. But the lack of minority voices within the newspaper industry over the past 30 years in particular has taken a bigger toll than anyone could have ever imagined. “It’s a very tough arguement. It’s really tough to convince people [newspaper management] that ‘hey, it’s really a problem that you don’t have a Latino on an editorial board in a city that’s 40% Latino”, says Ruben Navarette, a former nationally syndicated columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune. Navarette was one of several minority newsroom staffers who have recently lost their newspaper jobs.
According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, there are nearly 53,7000 journalists in the United States. 10% of them are minorities. During this rough transition within the newspaper industry, minority staffers have been hit especially hard. ASNE also reported that 6,300 minority employees were laid off as of late 2008. The overall number of newspaper journalists decreased at a rate of 11.3%. Minority journalists departed from newspaper newsrooms at a higher percentage over the past 9 years. Since 2001, the number of African-American journalists alone decreased by 539.
This trend is alarming when considering that minorities, who make up roughly one-third of the U.S. population, are predicted to become the majority by 2042, with 54% being legal residents by 2050.
The current trend in Television news is even more concerning. According to the Radio-Television News Directors Association, minorities within TV and radio news have been drastically cut as well. In 2009 minorities made up 23.6 % of the televison news workforce. Now they make up 21.8 %. The number of minoritiy employees in radio news fell from 11.8 % to 8.9 % from 2009 to 2010. Eric St. John of DiverseEducation.com comments, “42% of newsrooms in the United States have no minority presence at all.”
In the film, we will set out to capture minorty voices from current and former newsroom staffers and everyday readers. With all the talk in various blogging and media circles on how newspapers failed to invest in the future of digital technology, we think it’s equally important to examine how minorites have been traditionally neglected by industry leaders who have simply turned their backs on them.