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13 October, 2014

Lack of diversity in Indian newsrooms

To what extent does an Indian newsroom reflect the composition of the society which it seeks to serve?

In "India's Newspaper Revolution", Robin Jeffrey wrote that in the 1990s woemn and Dalits were almost absent from the reporting and editing sides of daily newspapers. He quoted a journalist in New Delhi, B.N. Uniyal, as stating in 1999 that "in all the thirty years I had worked as a journalist I had never met a fellow journalist who was a Dalit; no, not one... it had never occurred to me that there was something so seriously amiss in the profession.".

After going trough the names of nearly 700 journalists accredited to the Press Information Bureau in New Delhi, Uniyal was unable to identify a single Dalit."

Fifteen years have passed since then. How different is the situation today? Women's presence in the newspapers appears to have improved, and the electronic media which has come up in the last two decades have offered them greater opportunities than the print.

What about Dalits? Media owners generall plug line that they don't ask for the caste and religion of candidates, and so they have no information about the caste and religious affiliation of their employees.

Writing in a recent issue of Swadesi Janata, a Dalit periodical, K. Viswanathan said there was no accredited journalist belonging to the Schedules Castes of Scheduled Tribes in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala, a state which boasts of total literacy and a large number of newspapers and news channels.
In sharp contrast to the total insensitivity of Indian media institutions and organizations of media persons is the deep commitment with which the American Society of Newspaper Editors has been trying to improve minority representation in US newsrooms.

The number of minority journalists in daily-newspaper newsrooms in the United States increased by a couple of hundred in 2013 even as newsroom employment declined by 3.2 percent, according to the annual census released by ASNE and the Center for Advanced Social Research. 
This year's census also found that 63 percent of the news organizations surveyed have at least one woman among their top three editors. The percent of minority leaders is lower, with 15 percent of participating organizations saying at least one of their top three editors is a person of color. This was the first year the questions about women and minorities in leadership were asked.
Overall, the survey found, there are about 36,700 full-time daily newspaper journalists at nearly 1,400 newspapers in the country. That's a 1,300-person decrease from 38,000 in 2012. Of those employees, about 4,900, or 13.34 percent, are racial and ethnic minorities. That's up about 200 people, or 1 percentage point, from last year's 4,700 and 12.37 percent. It is nearly as high as the record of 13.73 percent in 2006.
"Producing the employment census each year is a significant effort on the part of ASNE, but as the leaders of America's newsrooms, we feel it's essential to keep this data front and center," said ASNE President David Boardman, dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University, while releasing the report at Columbia, Missouri on July 29. "We remain committed to doing all we can to help our newsrooms, and our news reports, better reflect the diverse nature of the communities we cover."

ASNE, which believes that diverse newsrooms better cover America’s communities, has been committed to diversity for more than three decades.
In 1978, it challenged the newspaper industry to achieve racial parity by 2000 or sooner and released the results of its first annual newsroom employment census. Over three decades, the annual survey has shown that while there has been progress, the racial diversity of newsrooms does not come close to the fast-growing diversity in the US population as a whole.
While ASNE is a voluntary, nonprofit organization with no hiring authority in individual newsrooms, the group is a steadfast leader in calling for newsroom diversity.

In 2000, the ASNE board reaffirmed its diversity goals. The board also approved adding women to its annual census on newsroom employment. Diversity initiatives remain focused on the hiring, promotion and retention of people of color in the newsroom.

The ASNE mission statement says:

To cover communities fully, to carry out their role in a democracy, and to succeed in the marketplace, the nation’s newsrooms must reflect the racial diversity of American society by 2025 or sooner. At a minimum, all newspapers should employ journalists of color and every newspaper should reflect the diversity of its community.

The newsroom must be a place in which all employees contribute their full potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or other defining characteristic.
The ASNE board in 2000 reaffirmed strategies, “which may be expanded or amended periodically”:
  • Conduct an annual census of employment of Asian Americans, blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, and women in the newsroom.
  • Encourage and assist editors in recruiting, hiring and managing diverse newsrooms.
  • Expand ASNE efforts to foster newsroom diversity.
  • Establish three-year benchmarks for measuring progress.
 Click here for ASNE's 2014 Diversity report.
(A Note posted in Facebook on October 13, 2014).

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