Skip

Who writes this crap?
October 29, 2012 7:36 AM   Subscribe

The 4th Estate corrects its numbers - "That journalism struggles with racial diversity is old news, but a study released on Thursday by The 4th Estate tried to quantify the magnitude of the problem. The organization released an infographic showing that, among the 38 most influential newspapers in the country, 93 percent of front-page articles about the 2012 election were written by white reporters. The infographic received a host of coverage."

"The 4th Estate first released its findings in an infographic titled, “Bleached: Lack of Diversity on the Front Page.” The study broke down stories according to election issue to show that white reporters dominated coverage across every topic, writing 91.1 percent of front-page stories on the economy and an overwhelming 98.2 percent of stories on immigration.

Friday’s graphic, with the relatively tamer title, “Newsroom Diversity: A Look at Diversity on the Front Page,” has whites writing 86.6 percent of stories on the economy and 94.8 percent of stories on immigration."
posted by marienbad (44 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've worked in newsrooms since I was fifteen years old. Taking a mental rundown of all the student and professional newspapers I've been part of, I can remember:

Two Asian reporters, both from my high school paper
Four black reporters, one of whom was fired after three months
One Hispanic reporter
One Indian reporter

And with the exception of my college years (93% white student population), those were all in minority-heavy areas. It's a serious problem.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:45 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


And how many were written by
Redheads?
Blondes?
Bald people?
Left-handers?
People less than 40?
People over 40?
People less than 6'?
People over 6'
Liberals? Conservatives?
Members of the Judean People's Front?
Members of the People's Front of Judea ?
People who graduated in the top 25%?
People who graduated in the lower 25%?
Homosexuals? asexuals? Bisexuals?
color-blind people?
Facebook members? Myspace members?
recent immigrants? Mayflower descendants?
Left-handed Lesbian Lithuanians?

We were looking at wedding pictures,”
isn't assuming a person's "race" based on pictures frowned upon?

What about judging people based on the content of their character instead of the color of their skin? I certainly hope they are not trying to imply that racism is the cause for the disparity shown here.

What about top posters here are MeFi? Maybe we should force a quota system so that the number of posts accepted be based on the racial make up of the member? Makes as much sense.
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:07 AM on October 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


You missed history class, huh.
posted by cashman at 8:17 AM on October 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


Wow! That went North awfully quick.
posted by srboisvert at 8:19 AM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whoa turns out white people are just better at everything
posted by theodolite at 8:19 AM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


We could let the troll stay under the bridge and move on with the thread.
posted by rdr at 8:25 AM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes, "content of their characters," blah, blah, blah. Well, here's my anecdote. I'm a white woman, living in a mostly white state. My first job I worked at a organization with pretty much no minority employees. None. When questioned, management said that it was simple demographics, and plus no one qualified ever applied. O.K. Seemed like it might be true.

My second job was at an organization where about a third of the employees were African American or Asian American. These people were awesome; professional, good at their jobs, super involved and committed to the community, just completely top notch. It was a real eye opener for a naive person from the Midwest. Why did one organization just two miles down the road, with many of the same stated goals for the community, find not one person of color to employ, while the other organization was rocking a diverse, hyper competent workforce?

Hmm.
posted by Malla at 8:26 AM on October 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


If racism is the reason for the disparity in the dozens of newspapers, than yes the article makes have a good point. However assuming that it is solely racism in all 38 newspapers is a stretch. Or maybe I am being naive and giving too much credit to a wide range of newspapers owners.



...something I just thought of. I scoff at it being racism because it is 38 newspapers all over the country. However how many owners are there? With the mergers happening it could be just a handful of owners which would make racism a more viable reason.

I mean no Hispanic writers in Miami? That does seem highly unlikely based on demographics.
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:36 AM on October 29, 2012


the 38 most influential newspapers

Publish a lot of the same front page articles written by the same few pool reporters so it would seem to me that this data could also say more about the lack of diversity in the source of front page reporting than it does about the source itself.
posted by three blind mice at 8:37 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of this stems from the fact that many American racial minorities have access to substandard education from the start. I wouldn't apply for a jounalism job if I never learnt how to read or write, after all.
posted by Renoroc at 8:46 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I scoff at it being racism because it is 38 newspapers all over the country.

You seems to be operating under the premise that 'racism' only refers to, like, conscious choices made by individuals based on their intentional dislike of a class of people.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:48 AM on October 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


I scoff at it being racism because it is 38 newspapers all over the country.

There is more to racism than "Coloreds not allowed" signs.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:50 AM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any idea how this compares with other professions that require similar years of unpaid internships?
posted by jeffburdges at 8:50 AM on October 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


Any idea how this compares with other professions that require similar years of unpaid internships?

In Britain, it's a widely acknowledged secret that the media continues to exclude non-privileged people - not just under-privileged but the middling sort as well - due to the heavy reliance on recruitment from elite universities and elite social networks, topped off with unpaid internships. They claim to be open and may not discriminate on paper, but function in a way that is essentially closed.
posted by jb at 9:20 AM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I went to journalism school in the mid-90s. Minority students were almost all by their own choice in broadcast because that's where the money and prestige was. Almost no non-white students were in the print-journalism program because even then it was considered something of a dead end, a lot of work for too little pay and too little recognition in a field with an uncertain future.
posted by Montgomery Roebuck at 9:21 AM on October 29, 2012


100% of the (above decks) crew of the Titanic were white. Then something happened and it really didn't matter any more.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:27 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Wow! That went North awfully quick.

Confused about whether your trying to impugn the Union, Oliver, or make a play on a common idiom going a different direction.
posted by achrise at 9:29 AM on October 29, 2012


achrise: "> Wow! That went North awfully quick.

Confused about whether your trying to impugn the Union, Oliver, or make a play on a common idiom going a different direction.
"

That's what makes it such a savory bit of wordplay. It works on so many different levels.
posted by boo_radley at 9:47 AM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who writes this crap?

Hey, that was the first sentence my Russian programmer co-workers taught me: кто писал эта гавно?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any idea how this compares with other professions that require similar years of unpaid internships?

Ding! You got it. I can't find the citation, but I know I read an article a few years ago showing that journalism school was up there with med, law and architecture as programs where the students had the wealthiest parents. And unpaid interning was a big part of that. Only the sons and daughters of the upper middle class (at least) could afford to go to a professional program and spend entire summers working for free, if not the first year or two after graduation.

So journalism as an industry isn't consciously self-selecting for white, it's self-selecting for wealthy enough parents to be an unpaid intern.
posted by thecjm at 10:26 AM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Any idea how this compares with other professions that require similar years of unpaid internships?

I'd like to double-ding this. The same could (and should) be said of working in Fashion, Film or other 'glamour' Industries like Advertising. Also, assuming you work your way up to a full-time gig, these fields are famous for substandard pay and particularly bad hours.

Consider yourselves warned, young people. If you're looking for diversity, respect and fair compensation, I'd suggest Accounting. No joke.
posted by Muppetattack at 10:57 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting. Maybe some journalist should do a story next by interviewing black people to see what influences their career choices.
posted by asra at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone so far seems to be focusing on the hiring aspects of this (which are perfectly valid to question), but I think the real issue here is the lack of a diversity of viewpoints in our media. This is just one of the ways our White privilege gets perpetuated, intentionally or not.
posted by PigAlien at 12:04 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unpaid internships effectively raise the bar for entry to people who can afford to live unpaid for 3-6 months while working a full time job. Often, this means minorities will not apply. Since many organizations hire from their pools of successful interns, they're hiring mostly young white people. Diversity in a newsroom is important. If I had my way, unpaid internships would be illegal, and organizations could apply for government stipends to make them possible.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 12:39 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can't hire a person if that person doesn't apply.

Just about the pnly black faces in our offices are the cleaners. And we're as seriously liberal and up-yours aggressively equality-minded as you'll find in London media. Asian, South American, pan-European, you name 'em, they're here.

We even have North Americans.

But not black people.

Can't speak for other departments, but in mine - there are almost no black applicants for editorial positions, and those that do disqualify themselves from first interview for being obviously unsuited for the job

I won't go into details, and many many others rule themselves out at the same stage, and clearly I don't know the colour of applicants who don't give their ethnicity away through name or early history. That George Smith from Croydon who went to City Uni could be any shade. But those I'd put money on having an African or Afro-Caribbean background? None get close. (I lie. We do have a couple of Africans in the company - white SA.) And if there's a huge number applying without obvious signifiers, well, they're not getting through either.

I don't know why. I hate living in virtual apartheid. Journalism should be the easiest place to make a mark through skill and industry rather than the 'right' education or background, inasmuch as anything in journalism isn't broken at the moment.

But you can't hire a person if a person doesn't apply.
posted by Devonian at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2012


I mean no Hispanic writers in Miami? That does seem highly unlikely based on demographics.

They do have actual Hispanic and Spanish language newspapers in Miami. Perhaps they are working for one of them in their native or second language? So for example, when I turn on Telemundo it's not full of white people. I'm guessing if I went down to the headquarters of El Diario I wouldn't find a lot of white people either.
posted by spicynuts at 1:35 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't hire a person if that person doesn't apply.

No but you can look at WHY that person isn't applying. Is it because your search is focused on methods that don't reach those people? Sitting in your office and wondering why minorities aren't applying and then throwing up your hands seems a bit ridiculous. If you ran a paper and sat in your office and said "Shit, no Rhodes Scholars are applying to write for my paper" and didn't do a damn thing to reach out to those Rhodes Scholars or try to find a method that reaches them, then well...
posted by spicynuts at 1:37 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You find us by using Google for the sort of jobs we have.

Not sure we want people who want a job in editorial, but can't or won't use Google to find it!
posted by Devonian at 2:02 PM on October 29, 2012


Devonian: "Not sure we want people who want a job in editorial, but can't or won't use Google to find it!"

Finding a journalism job might require different tools than journalism itself does.
posted by boo_radley at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2012


I'm sure that for some sorts of journalism, that could be correct.

Not for us, though.
posted by Devonian at 3:18 PM on October 29, 2012


This is just one of the ways our White privilege gets perpetuated, intentionally or not.

You mean like calling it "our" White privilege? Not everyone here is white.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:43 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about judging people based on the content of their character instead of the color of their skin? I certainly hope they are not trying to imply that racism is the cause for the disparity shown here.

posted by 2manyusernames at 11:07 AM on October 29

yes, yes it is. and you insist in supporting a racist system and perpetuating it by claiming the privilege of not having to deal with it.

well, DEAL WITH IT.
posted by liza at 5:04 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of this stems from the fact that many American racial minorities have access to substandard education from the start. I wouldn't apply for a jounalism job if I never learnt how to read or write, after all.
posted by Renoroc at 11:46 AM on October 29

COULD WHITE PEOPLE STOP WITH THIS NONSENSE!?!?!?!?!?!?

no, this is not true. there is a vast pool of overqualified people of color who could do better jobs than the front pagers at the New York Times. the problem is, our daddies didn't play golf within the Schzulberger's circles.

seriously, STOP THIS "LACK OF EDUCATION" NONSENSE NOW!
posted by liza at 5:08 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is an important difference between "our daddies didn't play golf within the Schzulberger's circles" and "we felt the unpaid internship was a dead end career wise", liza, one that holds even if these are intimately related.

There is seemingly a sound argument that our next step towards equality should be making unpaid internships illegal across the board, especially legal and political internships.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:21 PM on October 29, 2012


Well, it's called the Fourth Estate for a reason, after all. The term actually means something, you know? Funny that there seems to be so much argument about whether it means what it means. Granted, the utility of the Estate model as a conceptual artifice has limits, but it is still a useful framework for examining how the social order is arranged and maintained.

Skeptics and contrarians, take note: The skew of the social data is not the argument. It is the supporting evidence.

Those of you who are elucidating some of the mechanics of how the Fourth Estate functions - thank you. Many people either do not recognize or choose not to believe that the "respectable" press is orthodoxy-driven, and functions essentially as a supply-side information economy that both selects and predigests content for the Third Estate.
posted by perspicio at 10:42 PM on October 29, 2012


the problem is, our daddies didn't play golf within the Schzulberger's circles.

I know dozens of people who work at the New York Times. None of them got their jobs through nepotism.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:36 AM on October 30, 2012


I know dozens of people who work at the New York Times. None of them got their jobs through nepotism.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:36 AM on October 30 [+] [!]


How did they get their jobs? (Not sarcasm - I'm curious about the process).

As far as I know, working in media in the UK or US often (though not always) means attending a certain subset of universities, then doing unpaid internships. Social networks are important in finding those internships - it's not nepotism, but who you know does matter. It's interesting that the only person I know whose family probably belongs to the top 3% has had a number of important (even paid) internships, while people whose families are in the bottom 50% just have to hit up workopolis or the job bank to see what is publicly posted.

I think this is why many bright but less privileged people are attracted to academia. It's not just that the work is rewarding and satisfying (though it is), but that the job search process is so open and straight forward - you have your necessary connections made for you to get your first internships (aka grad school) made for you in your undergraduate education. Once in graduate school, the job path to academia is itself a narrow path that many are competing for, but at least the competition is relatively clear and you know what needs to be done.
posted by jb at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2012


Academia is extremely nepotistic in most countries, although not the U.S. Academia is largely a craps shoot based on subfield almost everywhere, especially the U.S.

I believe almost all academics I know come from solidly middle class backgrounds, with the less well off ones coming mostly from parents who only ended up poorer by becoming academics themselves.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:03 AM on October 30, 2012


How did they get their jobs? (Not sarcasm - I'm curious about the process).

The only reason I know how they got their jobs is because that's the first thing anyone who would like to work for the Times asks someone who works there. "How did you get your job?"

And the answers are spectacularly mundane -- most of the old timers filtered through regional papers (EG: David Carr, who worked at a paper in Minneapolis and an alt-weekly in DC). The younger guys are usually blogstars (see: Brian Stelter) or they come from a background that has only recently become valuable to the times (social media, data visualization, web production, etc.) and, again, worked at either smaller papers, magazines, or other news outlets like public radio.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 1:58 PM on October 30, 2012


jeffburdges - I would agree that academia is a craps shoot, definitely. But, unlike many other high prestige professions, it's a craps shoot where the craps table is in public and easy to find.
posted by jb at 2:46 PM on October 30, 2012


And the answers are spectacularly mundane -- most of the old timers filtered through regional papers (EG: David Carr, who worked at a paper in Minneapolis and an alt-weekly in DC). The younger guys are usually blogstars (see: Brian Stelter) or they come from a background that has only recently become valuable to the times (social media, data visualization, web production, etc.) and, again, worked at either smaller papers, magazines, or other news outlets like public radio.

Do you think that there may be barriers for non-white writers at other career stages, such as regional papers? Or are there barriers within new media fields?

I also always wonder when looking at representation in certain fields (whether for women or visible minorities) whether what we're seeing isn't a contemporary issue, but something working its way out. Certainly, if someone notes how few women there are among university faculty aged over 50, it's not really a comment on the hiring process now, but on the process 20 to 30 years ago. (Of course, they still find lower representation for women and visible minorities in recent hires for fulltime faculty - but that's another issue). If we're look at the front pages, when did these people begin the career path that brought them there? Is representation getting better at earlier stages in the career path (or, as in academia, improving but still has problems)?
posted by jb at 4:13 PM on October 30, 2012


Do you think that there may be barriers for non-white writers at other career stages, such as regional papers? Or are there barriers within new media fields?

The barrier, as I see it, is existent at every stage of the process. The media industry's barrier for entry is unpaid internships. Sometimes one, sometimes several. I worked unpaid for six months before I got a media job, working as a mover on the weekends. The path toward a full-time position is pretty linear at least in my experience, but it requires that initial upfront investment that a lot of people are simply unable to make. Hell, the only reason I was able to make it was because I had saved a little nest egg working in a different field the four years prior to my undpaid internship. So it becomes a mug's game. Work unpaid, or write in your spare time and hope to god you get discovered.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 7:34 PM on October 30, 2012


If we're look at the front pages, when did these people begin the career path that brought them there? Is representation getting better at earlier stages in the career path (or, as in academia, improving but still has problems)?

This is a good point. The buzzword is "unpaid internships", but I've heard a lot more about them recently than I did before I graduated not-all-that-long ago. Anecdotally, my college newspaper job was paid, as was the internship I did.

Are unpaid internships more prevalent now than they were 5 or 10 or 20 years ago? If so, that wouldn't seem to be a cause of disparities in working reporters at elite newspaper now -- if anything it could be an indicator of what's to come.
posted by brentajones at 6:43 AM on October 31, 2012




« Older The 225th anniversary of Mozart's "Don Giovanni"   |   candid photos of famous people Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post