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Black Journalists

By Hakim Hasan

The specter of newspaper journalists losing their jobs is not visually on par with television depictions of closing manufacturing plants or grimacing blue-collar workers. Yet, the journalism industry continues to face job loses. According to a new report released by the National Association of Black Journalists, Black journalists have suffered a significant decline in America’s Newsrooms in recent years.

Deirdre M. Childress, Vice-President for Print at the National Association of Black Journalists, told, “Our greatest concern is the lack of middle managers in the newsroom pipeline poised to be top managers.”

In it’s first report since the Great Recession, The ‘2010 NABJ Print Census of Newsroom Managers’ documents at least a fifty percent decline in managing editors.

“In 2004, there were 17 managing editors, says Childress, “In 2010, we have 10.”

The NABJ report also cites a decline in publishers who are black from 14 in 2004 to 9 in 2010. By contrast, the study found an increase in black editors from 13 in 2004 to 17 in 2010.

“There are few black journalists in the middle-management ranks who are being groomed for top jobs because of the recent exodus of journalists of color,” the report says.

The decline in the number of middle-management Black newspaper executives certainly raises the vexing question of diversity. However, diversity seems to be shaping up as one of the casualties of the economic and technological forces reshaping the newspaper industry.

“Diversity is off the table and we have to get it back on the table,” says Dori J. Maynard, the President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

According to News Media Daily, between 2001 and 2009, the newspaper industry has lost approximately 104,000 news and non-news related jobs.

Earlier this year, the American Society of Newspaper Editors released their annual newsroom survey.     Of the 1,422 daily print and online newspapers ASNE surveyed, 914 responded and 465 indicated that they had no black or minority staff members. Older and more experienced journalists are either being laid-off, accepting buyout offers, or leaving disillusioned about the prospects of advancement.

Les Payne, one of core founders of NABJ, who began his 39-year career as a journalist at Newsday, where he began in 1969 and rose to the position of Managing Editor, says the newspaper industry is in flux. What bothers him most, he says are the stories of real people that go untold during the cutbacks.

“They have mortgages to pay. They have kids in college. They had to reinvent themselves. Some took jobs in other fields like public relations.”

Still Mr. Payne is hopeful.

“I think there are tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities out there now that black people and journalists need to identify and take complete advantage of.”

Link to NABJ report


Minority journalists survey shows drop in 2009

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