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TV news is diversifying

Women and minority employment in local TV news is on the rise-and at record levels-according to an annual Ball State/Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) study released last week.

That finding gives local station news a strong argument that the elimination of the FCC's EEO guidelines in 1998 (they have since adopted new ones) did not negatively impact newsroom hiring practices-and the study concludes as much.

Radio has a tougher case to make, with minorities decreasing as a percentage of the workforce and of the top posts, although women in radio news posts fared better in both categories.

On the TV side, FOX and independent stations had particular reason to crow. They were singled out in the study for their degree of diversity in management.

According to the study, minorities in 2000 (the study was actually conducted in fourth quarter 1999) hold an all-time high of 21% of "all jobs in television news," up from 19% in the 1999 report (based on a fourth quarter 1998 study). RTNDA was quick to point out that that is almost double the percentage of minority journalists at daily newspapers (11.85%), according to the most recent American Society of Newspaper Editors study.

Minorities have also made strong gains in TV news management. In the top station job, 14% of news directors are minorities-again, a record-up from 8% last year.

According to the study, FOX affiliates and independent stations in general account for a large part of the increase in the number of minority news directors. FOX stations are now three or four times as likely to have minority news directors as the three other major networks. Independent stations are four times as likely to employ minorities in the top job. "Our stations take their efforts to create a diverse, highly qualified workforce very seriously. These are key elements of our business philosophy," said Tom Herwitz, president, station operations, FOX Television Stations.

In radio, minorities represent 10% of the total workforce, down from 11% in 1999. Six percent of radio news directors are minorities, down from 8% in the 1999 study.

Women represent 40% of the workforce in TV news, up slightly from 39% in 1999. Twenty-four percent of TV news directors are women, up 4% from last year. Twenty percent of radio news directors are women, the same percentage recorded in 1998.

RTNDA President Barbara Cochran called the employment gains "cause for celebration" but said that there is still need for more training and retention efforts. "It is in the best interest of the industry to support efforts to increase diversity at every level."

The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 1999 among all 1,349 non-satellite TV stations (773 responded) and 1,045 radio stations (602 responded). Response rates for both were approximately 57%.