Research highlights the need for diversity in media leadership

By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN @Randeloo

Diversity in news media matters because it offers a voice to underrepresented communities and helps provides education to break down the barriers of prejudice. When the news media provides structural diversity – hiring, retention, and promotion – it better reflects the audiences it serves, and more accurately portrays society.

A recent study, Race and Leadership in the News Media 2022, from Reuters Institute, evaluates leadership diversity in the newsroom. The research includes a sample of 100 major online and offline news outlets in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S.

Key findings for the ten top online news outlets and ten top offline news outlets in each of these markets:

  • In total, 21% of the 82 top editors identify as nonwhite, compared to 43% of the general population across the five countries. However, excluding Africa from the analysis means only 8% of the top editors are nonwhite compared to 31% of the general population.
  • At the time of the analysis, Brazil, Germany, and the U.K. did not have a nonwhite top editor. In contrast, 33% of top editors are nonwhite in the U.S., increasing from 18% in 2021. Further, in South Africa, 73% of top editors are nonwhite, increasing from 60% in 2021.

Many journalists highlight the importance of diversity in the newsroom and its important impact on editorial decision-making. The Reuters research measures diversity in the newsroom and tracks its progress compared to industry studies across the globe.

Tracking change in the marketplace

American Society of News Editors (ASNE) research surveyed 293 news organizations in the U.S. in 2018. The study found that 23% of the newsroom employees included people of color represent and 26% for online-only news organizations. The research also shows that 79% had at least one woman among their top three editors, and 33% had at least one minority journalist in a top-three position.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) in the U.K. used the 2020 Labour Force Survey (LFS) data to identify diversity in journalism. Their report shows women employed in journalism as a majority (53% compared to 47% of men). There was also a slight decrease in the proportion of white ethnic groups (94% to 92%) in journalism compared to 2018. Journalists working in the U.K. increased from 78,000 in 2018 to 96,000 in 2020. However, nonwhite journalists did not grow proportionately.

In Germany, the New German Media Makers (NdM), a nonprofit association representing media professionals with immigrant backgrounds, conducted research in 2020 among 126 editors-in-chief and 122 editorial offices. The study found only 6% of the editors-in-chief have an immigrant background. While most editors-in-chief generally rated diversity in editorial offices as necessary, they did little about it. The NdM made three important recommendations to editors-in-chief and closely monitor the news media.

  1. Report for the whole society: diversity in a program or publication can increase reach, circulation, and opportunities to employ people from immigrant families.
  2. Decision-makers must develop a strategy to attract journalists and staff with immigration histories.
  3. Disclose diversity data transparently, create clear targets, and document.

News media owners and their editors need to accelerate diversity initiatives in their organizations. Reuters research and the previous studies show a slow transformation of the newsroom with nonwhite journalists and editors under-represented. Importantly, transparency and documentation are essential to share best practices for building a diverse newsroom across the globe.