Journalism Unraveling

The crisis in journalism has reached such proportions that any efforts to fix it seem impossible.A new report by the Radio-Television News Directors Association last week found that nationwide, local television news stations slashed 4.3 percent – or 1,200 – newsroom jobs last year.

Meanwhile, the American Society of News Editors announced this month daily papers collectively reduced their staff last year by an astonishing 11 percent, or close to 6,000 jobs. Meanwhile, minority newsroom employment continues its decline with a loss of 854 journalists of color last year. Minorities now make up just 13 percent of the newsroom work force. But the actual number of journalists of color working in the newsroom (6,300) is at the lowest level since 1998.

If you dig deeper, the ASNE report reveals even more disturbing trends about dwindling diversity in the newsroom. African-American employment at newspapers fell by 13.5 percent, Asian American employment by 13.3 percent, and Hispanic employment by slightly less than 11 percent last year.

“The headline for me is that diversity has been demoted,” said Barbara Ciara, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists. She added that African American journalists were “the single most targeted group for job losses in newsrooms across the country.”

UNITY: Journalists of Color, a coalition of four minority journalism organizations, is calling for all journalism stakeholders to convene a summit this summer to find ways to prevent further declines in minority newsroom employment.

And while newsrooms and the public suffer from a diminished press corps, news organizations and media reform groups like Free Press are trying to stave off efforts to allow for more media consolidation – one of the main reasons we’re facing this journalism crisis in the first place.

During a hearing in Congress about the journalism industry, Newspaper Guild President Bernard Lunzer rejected any efforts to allow for further newspaper consolidation. The hearing was held after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to consider relaxing anti-trust laws to allow her hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, to explore merger opportunities. The Chronicle has threatened to shut its doors because it’s losing money.

Meanwhile, Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott also testified at the hearing and called for a national journalism strategy that would bring together government, industry and public stakeholders to work on developing policy solutions to support the production of quality journalism across platforms.