There are more minorities in newsrooms than there were a year ago, but
it's not like you'd notice. An annual survey by the Radio-Television News
Directors Association and Ball State University shows that, on average, the
percentage of minority newsroom hires hasn't changed much in a decade. In 1994,
minorities made up 18.0% of the TV-newsroom workforce; this year, they are
"Barring some significant changes, I'm not sure it's going to get any
better," says Bob Papper, professor of telecommunications at Ball State
University in Muncie, Ind., and director of the RTNDA/Ball State annual survey
The survey, released this summer, found that minorities' representation
in the TV-newsroom workforce grew to 21.8% in 2004 from 18.1% in 2003. Half of
that growth was among African-Americans; the other half, among
Hispanic-Americans, who are benefiting from the boom in Spanish-language TV in
the U.S. Growth among Asian-Americans declined while the percentage of Native
Americans in TV newsrooms remained flat.
While any increase is good news, Papper attributes at least some of the
change to survey methodology. For this year's numbers, his team contacted news
directors by mail, phone, fax and, for the first time, e-mail. News directors
also could fill out an online survey, a new component. By making it easier to
respond, the survey drew responses from 838 news directors, 30% more than
usual. "That increased response should make the data more reliable," Papper
says, "but it could also make a comparison with previous years more
What's more, even with this year's nearly 4% increase, minority hiring
at TV stations isn't growing as fast as the minority population in the U.S.
Since 1990, annual population growth has been nearly 7%.
Possibly, broadcasters' efforts to recruit minority hires may have
lessened because the U.S. Court of Appeals kept remanding the FCC's Equal
Employment Opportunity rules back to the agency. With or without rules, TV and
radio stations employ far more minorities than do newspapers, which have never
faced government regulation on hiring. Minorities make up 12.5% of newspaper
staffs, according to the survey.
News directors say recruiting minority hires makes good business sense.
"I think we are going to be more successful if we make sure that our staff
mirrors the community," says Scott Diener, executive news director of Arizona
News Channel, the cable news co-venture of Cox Cable and Belo Corp.'s KTVK
Phoenix. "How can you cover the community if you are not part of that
To aid in its efforts covering the local population, much of which is
Hispanic, KTVK has offered a minority internship through Arizona State
University since 1991.
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