Are we better than the corporations we cover? Holding up a mirror to diversity in newsrooms

I have become accustomed to being the only Black woman in the room. In addition to being followed around high-end stores and ignoring the many microaggressions of my peers, going places that are not inclusive is another day in the life for me as a Black woman. Having to make space for yourself is part of the Black experience.

The times I have stepped into a newsroom have been no different. Despite efforts to improve diversity, there is still a lack of Black people in America’s newsrooms.

Starting in 1978, the News Leader Association (NLA) sent out an annual diversity survey. However, the organization has not put out new findings because of lack of participation. Previously, the NLA delayed their surveys’ end dates with the hope that they could figure out how to improve participation.

In a 2021 interview with the Associated Press, Meredith Clark, a Northeastern University professor and journalist involved in the survey, said, “ …I am deeply discouraged that the journalism industry isn’t as transparent about its workforce in the way that it expects other industries to be transparent about theirs.”

As journalists, we pride ourselves in exposing the truth, but if news outlets continue to hide their statistics, are we better than any of the corporations we cover?

The NLA conducted its last survey, which polled more than 300 news organizations, in 2019. This survey found that only 7.19% of the overall salaried workforce, including newsroom leaders and all others, were Black. This is in comparison to their 77.98% white counterparts. That shocking statistic was considered a slight improvement from the previous year’s study, where the percentage of Black people in the workforce was 7.12%.

In a survey conducted by the PEW Research Center from February to March of 2022, journalists gave their news organizations the lowest marks for racial and ethnic diversity. Fifty-two percent of journalists surveyed said their organization does not have enough diversity.

Why are our voices not properly reflected in our newsrooms? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black people make up for more than 13% of the United States’ population, and there are over 40 million Black people in the United States. What stories and voices are we missing by having a disproportionate array of races and ethnicities in newsrooms? Black people have valuable ideas, there is no lack of qualified Black journalists in the workforce. This should be easily recognizable in the field of journalism as well.