The State of African-American Media and Newsroom Employment

African Americans make up about 13.3% of the U.S. population but only 5% of employees in the news media industry. While African-American media and diversity in traditional newsrooms continue to face challenges, there are some positive developments in digital media that may bring about a better future.

Traditional Media

A Pew Research Center study shows that the circulation of African American newspapers in key cities, like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington D.C., decreased between 2009 and 2015. Overall, the amount of newsroom jobs itself has remains steady, but the number of African Americans in the top editor positions went down from 11 to 9 during that same span.

The most notable concern is that lower circulation newspapers where people can get a good start to their careers seem to be less likely to employ minorities. The perception that newsrooms could do a better job of being diverse has caught the attention of organizations like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and National Public Radio.

Magazines

Three magazines that are geared toward African-Americans have traceable circulation data, and all of them have declined in circulation, according to the Pew study.

Television

While print media has seen some declines in minority employment, the outlook is slightly better for broadcast. The amount of African-American news directors has remained the same since 2013, while the overall amount of newsroom employment filled by African-Americans rose by 1% from 2013-2014.

In another positive sign, the amount of Black-owned TV stations grew. Bounce TV is the fastest-growing Black-oriented TV network among several age groups. Local affiliates of Bounce TV have the option of carrying or producing news to further reach their minority audiences.

Moving Forward

Despite the continued underrepresentation of African Americans in traditional media, some positive signs of growth were seen in digital media during 2016. The Poynter Institute partnered with the National Association of Black Journalists to provide leadership training to journalists of color working in digital media. And ESPN launched a site called The Undefeated, which focuses on race, culture and sports.

As more of these initiatives are undertaken, African Americans will be better-represented both in newsrooms and the number of media outlets that focus on community-specific issues.

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