The annual survey also found that 25.5 percent of the news organizations reported having at least one minority journalist among their top three editors, and 74.8 percent reported having at least one woman in a top-three position.
The results summarize responses from 661 news organizations, including 598 newspapers and 63 online-only news websites.
Although direct comparisons to 2016 data show slight decreases in the overall diversity of news organizations, this year's results indicate that newsrooms are still more diverse than they were during the two decades prior to 2016 when diversity figures essentially plateaued and minorities consistently accounted for between 12 and 13 percent of newsroom employees.
"The 2017 survey matched the methodology of the 2016 survey, so ASNE feels confident in comparing the two years' results," said Adam Maksl, an assistant professor at Indiana University Southeast, who has directed the survey for the past five years. "Although we were pleased to see the results last year that showed minority journalists were making up larger parts of American newsrooms, our findings this year help show that the growth observed last year wasn't a blip and might indeed show continued movement toward parity with the general population," Maksl said.
Maksl said it is still too early to say there is indeed an upward trend, especially because this year showed a slight decrease from last year, but he looks forward to seeing results in the next few years to find out if this is an upward trend.
Different from previous years, this year's survey included open-ended questions asking news organizations to provide specific examples of stories and other best practices that show their commitment to diversity recruitment and retention. Results will be reviewed and shared later.
Other highlights of the survey showed:
- In 2017, minorities comprised 16.55 percent of employees reported by all newsrooms in our survey, compared to 16.94 percent in 2016. Among daily newspapers, about 16.31 percent of employees were racial minorities (compared to 16.65 percent in 2016), and 24.3 percent of employees at online-only news websites were minorities (compared to 23.3 percent in 2016). The percent of journalists of color was still greatest at the largest news organizations. For example, at newspapers with daily circulations of 500,000 and above, nearly a quarter (23.4 percent) of the average workforce was made up of minorities (compared to 23.7 percent in 2016). The average newsroom workforce at all 661 legacy and digital sites was about 11.2 percent minority (up from 10.6 percent in 2016).
- Women made up more than a third of newsroom employees overall (39.1 percent in 2017 compared to 38.7 percent in 2016), with a higher number employed at online-only websites than at newspapers. Women comprised 38.9 percent of daily newspaper employees in this year's survey (compared to 38.1 percent in 2016) and 47.8 percent of online-only news organization employees (compared to 47.6 percent in 2016).
- Women were the majority of the workforce at 30.2 percent of the online news websites (compared to 37.4 percent in 2016) and at 15.5 percent of the daily newspapers (compared to 14.2 percent in 2016).
- Of all newsroom leaders, 13.4 percent were minorities (compared to 13 percent in 2016), and 38.9 percent were women (compared to 37.1 percent in 2016).
"We are seeing encouraging growth trends in the percentage of minorities and women in the top ranks of newsroom leadership," said ASNE President Mizell Stewart III, vice president of news operations for Gannett and the USA TODAY Network. "ASNE believes that diverse leaders build diverse newsrooms, and our organization's professional development efforts are oriented toward that goal."
"I'm encouraged by the increasing emphasis on diversity and the commitment of new partners to help ASNE advance the cause," said ASNE Diversity Committee Co-Chair Karen Magnuson, executive editor of the Rochester (New York) Democrat & Chronicle. "It's more important than ever for newsrooms to properly reflect and authentically cover communities of color. Continuing to improve in this area will help build trust and grow audience. It's critical to our industry's future."
"It's important to paint a picture of how newsrooms are changing and visualizing that against the communities they report on in a way that is easy to understand," said LaToya Drake, inclusive storytelling lead for the Google News Lab. "We hope this presentation is one the industry will value. We believe inclusion is crucial to creating media that opens us up to new perspectives on significant issues of our time, and this partnership with ASNE is a step in that direction."
"We cannot make strides on diversity and inclusion inside newsrooms without being able to measure it," said Jennifer Preston, vice president for journalism at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. "Although the survey signals improvement, it shows that more ambitious efforts need to be made to improve diversity, help rebuild trust, and ensure that the news and information needs of underserved communities are being met."
Earlier today, ASNE announced a $300,000 grant from the Democracy Fund, which will help create a more comprehensive and data-driven survey that catalogues newsroom diversity numbers for U.S. print and online publications. The Google News Lab and Knight Foundation are also key supporters of the annual survey.
In 2012, the ASNE Diversity Committee created the Minority Leadership Institute to train and develop up-and-coming, mid-level newsroom leaders and connect them with a network of established ASNE leaders. In 2016, ASNE rebranded the program as the Emerging Leaders Institute to include all emerging leaders with diverse backgrounds. ASNE has hosted 16 institutes since the first one in 2012.
ASNE plans to host four institutes in 2018. Dates and venues will be announced before the end of this year.
About the ASNE survey
Since its inception in 1978, ASNE's diversity research has revealed the degree to which newspapers and, more lately, online-only news websites reflect the public they aim to serve. Over the years, the survey has been revised to maintain its relevance as a useful and aspirational benchmark for racial and gender diversity.
In 1998, ASNE began to ask for the numbers of women employed in newsrooms. Until then, the research tracked only employment and general job categories for black, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American employees.
In 2014, the survey began asking for the number of women and people of color in top newsroom leadership positions.
In 2016, we made two notable changes, which we applied this year, as well.
First, we stopped estimating the number of journalists working in newsrooms, as the changing structure of modern newsrooms made it increasingly impractical and error-prone to try to estimate the number of working journalists.
A second major change was that we did not ask news organizations to classify employees by job category, other than breaking out leadership separately, because new jobs outside of the norm are constantly being created in many newsrooms.
About the American Society of News Editors
The American Society of News Editors focuses on leadership development and journalism-related issues. Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, ASNE promotes fair, principled journalism; defends and protects First Amendment rights; and fights for freedom of information and open government. Leadership, innovation, diversity and inclusion in coverage and the journalism work force, opinion journalism, news literacy and the sharing of ideas are also key ASNE initiatives.
About Google News Lab
Launched in 2014, the News Lab is Google's focused effort to fuel innovation within newsrooms and empower the creation of quality journalism. The team provides trainings in digital tools for journalists, conducts research on key issues facing the news industry, and builds programs and products to tackle the most critical challenges at the intersection of journalism and technology. In 2017, the team has focused on four areas where technology can help fuel innovation in journalism: trust and verification, data journalism, immersive storytelling, and inclusive storytelling. Learn more about the team's work at g.co/newslab.
About Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.