Newsrooms have poor diversity records

Nearly eight in 10 companies also said they had no clear minority or Indigenous representatives in the top three management positions. (photo: 123RF)

TORONTO — A recent survey looking at diversity in newsrooms in Canada suggests that news organizations have a long way to go if they want to diversify their editorial teams, particularly when it comes to full-time management positions and positions.

National data released last month by the Canadian Association of Journalists on the composition of newsrooms shows that 78% of journalists are white, 4.6% are Indigenous and 17.5% belong to a visible minority.

The survey, conducted between March and August 2022, was based on voluntary responses from 242 print, broadcast, television and digital media outlets, representing a total of 5,012 journalists.

The report says eight out of 10 newsrooms do not have reporters who identify as Latino, Middle Eastern, or mixed-race, and eight out of 10 do not have reporters who are black or Indigenous. Nearly eight in 10 companies also said they had no clear minority or Indigenous representatives in the top three management positions.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) acknowledges in the report that the data and snapshots it provides have their limitations — including the fact that not all newsrooms participated in the survey, and that data on affiliation was unknown to about a quarter of the journalists.

John Miller, a professor emeritus at Metropolitan University in Toronto who for two decades has advocated for greater diversity in newsrooms, said he was disappointed by the poll’s results — which “are just as good as last year’s.”

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“The onus is on the leaders of the various media, who need to understand that our population is constantly changing and that they also need to change to respond to society where it is in terms of demographics,” he said in a recent interview.

Brian Daly, associate professor of journalism at King’s College Halifax, agrees. “It’s just a matter of common sense (…) people of color wouldn’t want to buy a product if they couldn’t identify it.”

“Do as I say…”

The ACJ says news companies should be transparent about the make-up of their newsrooms, as many of them “report regularly on the diversity of ministers and corporations.” It also notes that similar data has been collected in the United States since 1978.

“The media has to start doing the right thing before you ask all of society to do it,” said Professor Miller.

Men outnumber women in senior newsroom positions: 54.3% of newsroom CEOs are male, 44.3% are female, and 1.3% are non-binary.

Separately, 83% of moderators identify as white, compared with 2.7% Black, 3.5% Native, and 5.5% Asian, the survey found.

The report also notes that diversity is higher among part-time workers and trainees.

Andrea Bailey, editor-in-chief of The Canadian Press, said the results of this survey show there is still a lot of work to be done.

“Canadian Press has various initiatives to add fresh perspectives to our newsrooms; it’s a top priority, she says. The diversity of our workforce is slowly changing, but we need to retain new hires, make sure they feel heard, and move them to senior positions.”

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CAJ President Brent Jolly says one of the biggest challenges in creating change is combating this ingrained bias that hiring teams may have.

“Too often people hire people like themselves. It’s well documented,” he said, expressing hope that the ACJ’s investigations “will serve as a call to action with those responsible.”

Peter Odoiye is a journalist and editor at African World News. Works in Toronto.

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