The number of newspaper journalists in the US fell last year by almost 5 per cent to a low of 52,600, the lowest it has been for almost 25 years and the biggest drop in 30 years.
The new figures, released by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, reflects the attrition going on in the America media.
The figures also reflect the continuing – and sometimes controversial – debate over the number of “minority” journalists employed by US papers.
Actually the number of “journalists of colour” – as ASNE puts it – did not decline over the past year. The number held steady at between 13 and 14 per cent. But this is still regarded as not satisfactory because it still does not match the percentage of minorities in the whole American population . About one-third of Americans are classified as members of a racial or ethnic minorities and in four states they make up more than 50 per cent of the population.
When ASNE first launched its annual newsroom census in 1978 the target was to achieve parity by the year 2000. When it fell short it set a new goal of 2025. Now because of the increasingly rapid growth of racial and ethnic minorities, and a slowdown in the hiring of minority journalists, it is seen as unlikely that even the new deadline will be achieved.
The leaders of the various organisations representing black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists have labelled the situation “dismal”.
The largest number and percentage of minority journalists are black, (they total 2,790, or just over five percent of the workforce) followed by Hispanic (2,346 – 4.6 per cent), then Asian (l,692 – 3.2 per cent). Native Americans are the smallest group of all – 284 journalists, or 0.5 per cent of editorial employees.
Minority journalists, the report adds, are most likely to be reporters, with only 11 per cent holding executive or supervisory jobs. Men still outnumber women in newsrooms, by almost two to one.