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Broadcast Media Make Small Gains in Diversity

By Marissa Evans, Lance Dixon, Regina Graham
NABJ Monitor

Media companies saw lukewarm progress this year when it came to diversifying news management, according to the NABJ Diversity Census report released Friday.

The report, composed by the organization’s Broadcast Task Force, tracked newsroom managers at 68 television stations owned by four national media companies: Raycom Media, Allbritton Communications Company, Journal Broadcast Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“We’re the only organization that does this kind of research,” said Bob Butler, NABJ Vice-President of Broadcast. “My hope is that we reach every news station in the country.”

According to the report, the four companies employ 350 men and women in the positions of general manager, news director, assistant news director, managing editor, assignment manager, executive producer or web manager. Only 12 percent of these were people of color. Twenty-eight were black, six were Latino, three Asian American and one Native American.

The report comes as U.S. Census data reflects that nearly one-third of the country’s population is non-white.

“It is disheartening to see these newsrooms do not reflect the society that we walk everyday,” NABJ President Greg Lee Jr. said in a statement.

Raycom did the best this year with 16 percent of its news management being people of color.

Susana Schuler, vice president of news at Raycom said she was excited about the progress the company has been making with its diversity outreach. She said Raycom is at NABJ this year to continue recruitment for its various positions.

“Even in markets where we may not yet reflect the diversity in the management ranks, we do reflect the diversity in the newsroom, covering the news, presenting the news and in many cases producing the news,” Schuler said.

Sinclair Broadcast Group did the worst, according to the report, with only three of 99 news managers being people of color.

Sinclair’s employment manager, Sharon Pickeral, said there’s little turnover for news management positions. She said Sinclair works with NABJ, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and other media organizations to spread the word about job openings but it ultimately comes down to who’s applying.

“We look at every single resume,” she said. “We hire based on the best resumes we’re getting.”

Sinclair has been coming to the NABJ convention for three years but was unaware of the organization’s Broadcast Task Force, or Student Projects, both of which the company would like to work with in the near future, she said.

“We want to become as involved as we can,” Pickeral said.

TIME magazine received NABJ’s Thumbs Down Award. The award is typically given to news entities for especially insensitive, racist or stereotypical reporting, commentary, photography or a cartoon at odds with the goals of the organization. The newsmagazine received the award in part for failing to include identifiable African-Americans in its special issue commemorating the Sept. 11, 2011 , terrorist attacks. The news magazine’s staff has become younger and more ethnically diverse, but that shift has failed to include black writers and editors.

Jack White, the first black columnist for TIME, said he understands the downsizing happening in magazines but doesn’t know how publications plan to cover the world without having a diverse staff to do it.

“It’s a sad moment that they would merit this kind of negative initiative,” White said. “It’s going to take continuous prodding from organizations like NABJ. You’ve got to remind them that diversity is a priority.”

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