2022 Diversity Audit Report

"2022 Diversity Audit Report" table of contents

  1. 2022 Diversity Audit Report
  2. Who works in North Carolina's newsrooms?
  3. Career Trajectory & Salary
  4. Who Didn't Respond
  5. Conclusion
  6. Appendix A: Methods
  7. Appendix B: Analyst Panel Reports

Who Works in North Carolina’s Newsrooms: Data from Organizational and Individual Surveys

Elizabeth Thompson, Local News Researcher
Jessica Mahone, Ph.D., Research Director
Jordan Davis, Graduate Student Researcher

Newsroom diversity has long been recognized as critical to the mission of local news. However, gathering an accurate understanding of diversity in newsrooms has proven a difficult undertaking due to low response rates.

A survey of North Carolina newsrooms and journalists, by the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media in partnership with the NC Local News Workshop at Elon University, found that newsrooms remained largely white, consistent with prior research across the country. This study, one of few to ask respondents about disability, found that 30% of survey respondents who worked in a newsroom had some kind of disability though very few asked for Americans With Disabilities Act accommodations. Compared to previous research, women in this study had greater representation – both in staff and leadership positions.

The survey was conducted in the summer of 2022, against a backdrop of the most recent diversity survey conducted by the News Leaders Association (NLA). The organization then known as the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) first launched its diversity survey in 1978. The survey measures progress towards newsroom diversity with a goal that newsrooms and the communities they serve should have similar demographic makeups. The survey originally provided national-level statistics on the journalism workforce, but within the past five years, NLA (and ASNE before it) has sought to redesign the survey to improve response rates and has partnered with Google to visualize diversity in specific newsrooms.

NLA has not released data from the survey since 2019 due to low response rates and data integrity issues. Results from that survey indicated that people of color make up about 22% of print and digital newsroom staff, and women made up 42% of staff. People of color made up approximately 19% of newsroom managers and women made up 40% of management roles, among the organizations that participated in the survey.

The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), in partnership with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, conducts an annual survey on women and minorities in television and radio news. In 2021, approximately 28% of staff at TV stations and 16% of staff at radio stations were people of color. Approximately 44% of TV staff and 40% of radio staff were women. Approximately 40% of TV news directors and approximately 25% of radio news directors were women. Approximately 20% of TV news directors and 7% of radio news directors were people of color.

Most efforts to measure and track newsroom diversity have been national in scope. However, there have been a few efforts to study newsroom diversity at the newsroom, local, and state levels. In response to the then-ASNE diversity survey’s focus on national data, a series of three reports examined newsroom diversity between 1990 and 2005 at approximately 1,400 newspapers to determine which papers met the parity goals set out by ASNE. The authors provided detailed diversity data for each individual newspaper but not for states themselves. The study found that only 13% of the top 200 newsrooms in the U.S. reached ASNE’s goal of parity between the newsroom and community.

More recently, a study of diversity in San Diego newsrooms conducted by the local chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists in 2021 found that newsrooms there are largely staffed by white men. In 2022, the Colorado Media Project partnered with the News Leaders Association (NLA) to collect demographic data on the 150 member newsrooms of the Colorado Media Project but results have not been released.

Many diversity surveys, including the NLA and RTDNA surveys, ask for newsrooms to provide demographic data rather than obtaining such data from individuals working in newsrooms. However, there have been a couple of noteworthy surveys of individual journalists. Using the Cision database to identify and recruit 25,000 journalists, researchers at Northwestern surveyed 1,500 journalists about diversity initiatives in their newsrooms. About 87% of survey respondents identified as white. In 2022, Pew Research Center conducted a survey of about 12,000 journalists in the U.S. about their attitudes towards the journalism profession. Just over three-quarters of journalists in Pew’s survey identified as white, and about half identified as men.

It’s against this backdrop that the Center for Innovation and Sustainability at the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Local News Workshop at Elon University designed a study of diversity in NC newsrooms. This study surveyed both news organizations and individual journalists. The organizational survey asked newsroom leadership to provide counts of their employees, freelance workers, and leadership and to provide demographic data on race and gender about each. The individual survey asked those working in newsrooms to provide demographic data including sexual orientation and disability, information about their salary range, and their sense of belonging in their newsroom.

The organizational survey received 36 responses, including responses from the three largest newsrooms in the state, providing demographic data about 633 workers, and the individual survey received 152 responses from individuals working in 59 newsrooms across the state. The number of responses to both surveys limit the conclusions that can be drawn from this study, but there are still noteworthy findings about newsrooms and their workers in the state.

In addition to data analysis by CISLM staff, CISLM and the NC Local News Workshop convened a panel of seven journalists and experts from marginalized communities to provide further analysis of preliminary survey results. Not all preliminary results made it into the final report due to the low number of responses. The research team provided analysts with a workbook to share their analysis and recommendations for news organizations, journalism support organizations, and journalists, although they were not required to use the workbook. The analysis of this panel was used to shape the narrative of this report, and individual contributions from panelists are highlighted at the end of each section of the report where applicable. Full summary reports from each panelist are included in Appendix B to this report.

The members of this panel were:

Highlights from this report include:

  • Participating newsrooms reported a total of 633 staff members, including 111 staff in leadership roles.
  • About 70% of staff in participating newsrooms were white, consistent with similar surveys of newsrooms.
  • Nearly a quarter of staff and 18% of leadership in participating newsrooms were Black.
  • Women were 52% of staff in participating newsrooms, a higher proportion than in the 2019 NLA survey.
  • Women and men make up equal shares of leadership at participating news organizations at 49% each.
  • Half of individual survey respondents started their current position within the past three years.
  • More than 40% of respondents working at news organizations earn less than $50,000 per year.
  • 30% of respondents said they had some kind of disability, but only a few had sought accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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"2022 Diversity Audit Report" table of contents

  1. 2022 Diversity Audit Report
  2. Who works in North Carolina's newsrooms?
  3. Career Trajectory & Salary
  4. Who Didn't Respond
  5. Conclusion
  6. Appendix A: Methods
  7. Appendix B: Analyst Panel Reports