Newsroom now largely feminine, sees development in worker variety
I’m USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll, and this is The Backstory, Insights into our biggest stories of the week. If you’d like The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here.
Women now make up the bulk of the newsroom at USA TODAY.
In our latest employee diversity survey, published today, 51.7% of journalists were women. We also made progress in the proportion of Black (13.6%), Hispanic (10.1%), and Asian-American (7%) journalists. Overall, the editorial staff consisted of 34% colored journalists.
We compare ourselves to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau, the latest data available at the time of our survey, where the population was 12.5% black, 18.5% Hispanic American, and 5.8% Asian-American. Overall, the nation consisted of 39.9% black people.
Our survey does not currently contain any data on sexual orientation or sexual identity.
Our goal is to reflect the diversity of the United States by 2025. So we’ve made progress, but we still have a lot to do. In order to be able to report the stories of our country fully and accurately, we have to reflect on them.
It is a proud moment to see the progress we have made in hiring and retaining women, especially women of color, to reach this milestone.
“It’s important because the news industry makes history and that story has been written with a manly gaze for a very long time,” said Holly Moore, USA TODAY Network Planning Director. “The people in the newsroom make decisions about what to report, who to interview, and what language to tell stories in.
Some might rightly say, “Why did it take you so long?”
USA TODAY was founded in 1982. At the time, women made up about 34% of the editorial staff in US newspapers, reported researchers David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit in the 1986 book “The American Journalist”. only inches up for the next 20 years.
In 1991, the earliest on record, 27.6% of the US TODAY newsroom were women; In 2001 we were at 29%.
“I remember women always made up about a third of the total editorial staff, which made our newsroom pretty much geared towards the newspaper industry,” said Wanda Lloyd, a senior editor who worked for USA TODAY from 1986-1996 and author of Coming Full circle: From Jim Crow to journalism. “” I was proud to work in a newsroom where women were leaders in every field. At one point in the early years, women held top positions in news, life, international, USA WEEKEND, cover stories, and editorial. “
USA TODAY and its owner Gannett were early champions of diversity in the newsroom, but the number of women in USA TODAY and the industry remained around a third for years.
Women make up the majority of journalism school graduates, and women often make up the majority of entry-level editorial staff. So why wasn’t the industry number moving?
One of the reasons this is because a number of female J-School graduates are choosing careers in public relations or related fields, said Kristin Gilger, a professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
“But if you look at those who take newsroom jobs after college, the number of men and women is about the same. The numbers are still about the same after five years of their careers, but then they start to decline over time, until 20 years later. “Newsrooms are becoming predominantly male.”
In the latest 2019 survey by the News Leaders Association, newsrooms were nearly 60% male.
It is widely believed that women are leaving the industry to have children, but Gilger says the truth is more complicated. She explored the subject in a 2019 book she co-wrote on Women in Journalism: “There’s No Crying in the Newsroom: What Women Have Learned About What It Takes to Lead”.
“Women drop out for many reasons – overwork, fatigue, family responsibilities, and the chance to make more money by doing something different. But the main reasons, in my opinion, are two. First, they don’t have the support they need – flexible hours, day care, home help – conducive to work on the news and raising children, “she said.
Second, they find that the playing field is just not the same. They see their male colleagues get promoted, make more money, and get more credit and better assignments, all while facing not only the usual newsroom requirements but all gender issues as well that women face in their job (e.g., social media attacks and sexual harassment) At some point, usually after 10 or 15 years in their careers, they ask, “Is it really worth it?” and they leave. “
None of this is unique to media companies – or to any organization that has traditionally been male-dominated, she adds. “But the newsroom culture, rooted in a very macho ethos, was particularly slow to evolve.”
When I was pregnant with my son, now 16, I went to my male editor to tell them about it. His face fell. He said, “We had such high hopes for you.” Shocked, it took me a couple of blows to answer. Finally I stammered, “And you still should.”
In the past few years, so often men made decisions for women they didn’t know about. When you talked about breaking news about travel, someone said, “We can’t send her, she has children.” Or when it comes to a job offer abroad: “She wouldn’t want it, her husband has a good job here.”
I would politely point out, “This is really not your decision. Let’s ask her.”
“Women lift when climbing,” said USA TODAY Life Editor Laura Trujillo. “They show each other a way. They look out for each other. They understand each other in a different way.”
When Michelle Maltais, editor-in-chief for consumer, tech and travelShe first came to USA TODAY, she told a black editor, the first black manager she had in her career.
“It gave a sense of inclusiveness and mentoring, and I see that in the role I now play with other colored journalists,” said Maltais, who is Black. “If you can see yourself in a responsible role, you can dream big.”
Of course, men also make a difference.
Some of my earliest and best mentors were men. Al Neuharth, who founded USA TODAY, left a legacy as a champion in the recruitment and advancement of women of color and journalists.
“It is a source of pride that we have a long track record of recruiting and promoting women in an industry where top female news executives remain a notable exception,” said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, USA TODAY Editor and President of News, USA TODAY Network. “Our coverage is undoubtedly enriched and empowered by their perspectives, as well as our general commitment to inclusion.”
What’s next? We still have more work to do. At USA TODAY, we want our newsroom diversity to reflect national demographics over the next four years. Our local newsrooms strive for parity with their local population.
That means recruiting and retaining the best talent in the country, promoting inclusive newsrooms where everyone feels welcome, distributing opportunities, and making sure different voices are heard and taken into account.
“I’m incredibly proud of the work we do as women and BIPOC leaders in our newsroom and the numbers show that we have clearly come a long way,” said Roxanna Scott, Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY Sports.“But this is not the time to pat ourselves on the back because our work never stops.
“There are always those who feel excluded and underrepresented on our pages and in our reporting. Identifying our blind spots is still an important part of our work as news editor. “
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Nicole Carroll is the Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter here. Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe here.