Wick Communications

Who’s left in the newsroom?

In journalism on July 31, 2015 at 8:05 am

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The American Society of News Editors this week released an interesting census of newsrooms across the country, and the results may be a bit surprising.

Here’s the bad news and it’s not really “news” because you all know the trend already: Newsrooms lost more jobs in the last year. ASNE says there are about 32,900 journalists at 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. That is down about 3,800 people from 2013 and about half of the total number of newsroom jobs in 1990. That is a breathtaking statement.

Here’s something that perhaps you didn’t know: Hiring is up at the very biggest newspapers and at the very smallest – which is our sweet spot. From the ASNE presser announcing the numbers:

The number of employees at newspapers with daily circulations between 250,000 and 500,000 increased by 13.98 percent. Newspapers with circulations under 5,000 had a 15.9 percent increase in the number of employees.

A 16 percent increase in hiring at newspapers our size is nothing to sneeze at! …

Why is that? Well, it’s sort of a continuation of what we’ve seen for the last couple decades. The very biggest organizations are able to be all things to all people with news apps, video, forums, events, native advertising, specialty publications, Web broadcasting – you name it. They report on Kazakhstan and Kardashians. That enables them to command huge audiences online and that can translate into cash. At the smaller end, there is still nothing like a newspaper on Main Street. There is no other way to learn about Douglas, Ariz., or Half Moon Bay, Calif. The middle – the regional dailies of the world – have neither the capital to cover the world, nor the hyperlocal focus, consequently, they are continuing to be squeezed.

One other number worth mentioning: 12.76. That is the percent of American journalists who come from minority communities. That is relatively stable after peeking with wonderful recruitment programs in the 1980s and ’90s. (Do you know that less than 4 percent of full-time journalists were people of color in 1978? That is unbelievable to me.) The current number is good, but not good enough in my view. If we don’t reflect our communities, we are in trouble. Look around your building and ask yourself if the faces you see look like the faces you see when you walk out of the building.

There is good information in the ASNE report. Take a look.

Clay

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