Last month I shared a story with you about The New Orleans Times-Picayune scaling back its printed edition to three days a week to cut costs. Now The Poynter Institute is reporting blacks were disproportionately hit by the layoffs, “meaning the newspaper serving the majority-black city will become less diverse unless the difference is made up with new hires.”
“The lack of diversity that will be suffered in these newsrooms is unacceptable, and will result in more losses for these companies as consumers will go elsewhere to find news that is truly representative of their community,” the National Association of Black Journalists President Greg Lee said in a news release last week.
The Times-Picayune reported that 84 of 173 people in the newsroom were laid off, a loss of 48.5 percent. According to a list I assembled (based on conversations with multiple people in the newsroom) 14 of 26 African-Americans in the newsroom lost their jobs — a 53.8 percent cut. That includes editors, reporters and administrative personnel.
A 5.3 percentage-point difference may not appear to be much, but it erodes the newspaper’s diversity. The Times-Picayune didn’t participate in the latest ASNE census, but according to the list I assembled, the newsroom would have been 15 percent African-American before the layoffs. If no African-Americans are hired into the new operation, it would be 13.5 percent. (Other departments of the company, such as the press room, have more black employees and were cut significantly.)
According to the latest survey by the American Society of News Editors, newsroom are getting whiter across the country, not just at The Times-Picayune.. When ASNE started its survey in 1978 the percentage of journalists of color in newsrooms was just below 4 percent. The percentage peaked with the 2006 census (at 13.73 percent), but it has fallen almost every year since.