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Journalism Funders Call on Newsrooms to Respond to ASNE Diversity Survey

By Tom Glaisyer / 2018 September 20th

Democracy Fund understands diversity in its many forms as a core strength and feature of a healthy democracy. This is central to the work of our Public Square Program which invests in people and organizations working to make newsrooms in America more reflective of and responsive to the communities they serve.

As such, we were concerned to learn last week that our grantee the American Society of News Editors had to extend the deadline for its 2018 Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey because only 234 out of nearly 1,700 newspapers and digital media outlets have submitted data to this year’s survey. Together with our colleagues at a wide range of foundations who fund journalism in America we released this statement which has been signed by Farai Chideya, Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation; Molly De Aguiar, Managing Director, News Integrity Initiative; Jim Friedlich, Executive Director & CEO of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism; Tom Glaisyer, Managing Director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund; Jonathan Logan, President & CEO Jonathan Logan Family Foundation; Jennifer Preston, Vice President of Journalism at the John S and James L Knight Foundation; and Andres Torres, Program Officer at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

As foundations committed to furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion in journalism, we stand together today to call on newsroom leaders to take seriously the work of building newsrooms that truly represent the diversity of our nation.

The ASNE diversity survey has been collecting newsroom employment data since 1978 and was relaunched this year with a focus on making it a more actionable tool for the nation’s newsrooms. We frequently read about outlets’ commitment to diversify their coverage and newsrooms; and from newsroom staff on the need for change. To deliver on that promise of change, there needs to be more transparency and accountability. That starts with fully participating in the leading survey of newsroom diversity in the nation. The response to this year’s survey is deeply disappointing.

Newsrooms today have invested enormous amounts of time and money in tracking data about our journalism. Editors and publishers understand the necessity of using good data to drive decisions. Diversity is no different. That is why journalism funders recently released five years of data about funding for equity, diversity, and inclusion. As funders, we know the philanthropic community needs to prioritize this work as well, and tools like the ASNE survey inform our work. That is why we will require annual completion of the ASNE survey for our journalism grantees in our grant agreements going forward.

A healthy, diverse democracy requires a robust, free, and diverse fourth estate. The work of diversity is the work of journalism today. We believe the ASNE survey is a critical tool in creating a more responsive and representative public square, and we call on the industry to respond with the urgency this moment demands. If you haven’t already, we strongly encourage that you respond to the survey by Oct. 12.

Newsrooms with questions about how to respond should contact lead researcher Dr. Meredith Clark, mdc6j@virginia.edu, or ASNE Executive Director Teri Hayt at thayt@asne.org.

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