Aug 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Newsrooms address diversity failures with fresh roles, data

A collage of images about media and race

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Newsrooms around the U.S. are adding dozens of positions that involve covering race and social justice. They're also publishing statistics about their own staffs for the first time, in an effort to better address their decades-long shortcomings around diversity and inclusion. 

Why it matters: A national awakening surrounding systemic racism in America ahead of an historic election is awakening newsrooms to the fact that they can't adequately cover the current state of affairs if their editorial teams don't reflect the changing dynamics of their readership and the nation. 

Driving the news: Gannett, the parent company to USA Today — the largest newspaper in the U.S. by circulation — and hundreds of local newsrooms, posted an op-ed from its publisher on Thursday stating that for the first time in its history, the company would publicly share data on the gender, racial and ethnic diversity of its network of newsrooms. 

  • Gannett also announced the creation of 60 jobs to expand coverage of inequities in the U.S., with about one-third of the roles being new hires and the rest reassignments.
  • "These new hires and jobs serve to underscore our commitment to diverse staffing and news coverage at USA TODAY and our local newsrooms. And it’s a commitment that starts at the top," wrote Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of the USA Today network and publisher of USA Today newspaper.

The big picture: Newsrooms across the country are adding more positions to cover race. Many are changing the way their style guides reflect terms about race and ethnicity.

  • The Washington Post and the New York Times announced company-wide diversity initiatives in June, including the addition of dozens of new positions to cover race.

Yes, but: Some news companies are facing backlash from employees for not addressing diversity issues quickly or adequately enough.

What's next: Newsrooms are setting staff goals to hold themselves accountable to their efforts. 

  • USA Today said Thursday that its goal is "parity with our communities" by 2025. 
  • NBCUniversal's News Group set an objective of having a 50% diverse workforce this July.

Go deeper: Newsrooms add new positions to fortify coverage on race

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