American daily newspapers shed 5,900 newsroom jobs last year, according to The American Society of News Editors, which has conducted a census of newsrooms since 1978 primarily as a means of measuring minority employment.
Layoff counts by the websites News Cycle and Paper Cuts for 2009 exceeded 8,000 on April 16. Both websites include layoff totals from business and production personnel as well as newsroom employees.
Of the journalists who departed newsrooms, 854 were minorities according to ASNE’s 2009 census. The overall year-over-year drop left 46,700 journalists, including 6,300 minority professionals, on newspaper staffs at the end of 2008. The number of minority journalists stands at the level reported in the 1998 census, the report said.
“The loss of journalists is a loss for democracy,” said ASNE President Charlotte Hall. “The loss of people of color from our newsrooms is especially disturbing because our future depends on our ability to serve multicultural audiences. ASNE is committed to keeping newsroom diversity on the front burner even in tough times.”
ASNE said that the overall job loss was the largest one-year decline in employment in the history of the ASNE census and followed a drop of 2,400 a year ago. Since a modern era peak of 56,400 reported in 2001, newsroom jobs have decreased by 9,700. The highest employment level in the survey’s history was 56,900 reported in 1990.
In this decade, ASNE said there has been a net increase of Latino, Asian and Native American journalists and a net decline of Black journalists.
Minorities account for 11.2 percent of all supervisors in newsrooms, which remains virtually unchanged for the past two years. Of all minorities, 22 percent are supervisors.
ASNE said that 458 newspapers responding to the census had no minorities on their full-time staff. This number has been growing since 2006. The majority of these newspapers have circulations of 10,000 or less. All newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or more that responded to the census had at least one minority staffer.
Nearly two-thirds of minorities work at newspapers with circulations exceeding 100,000. The percentage of minorities working at newspapers with more than 500,000 circulation is 17 percent; 250,001 to 500,000 circulation, 19 percent; 100,001 to 250,000 circulation now account for 29 percent.
The census found 2,300 journalists worked solely online of which nearly 19.6 percent were minority. ASNE started counting online-only journalists in 2007. Then there were 1,900 online journalists of whom 16 percent were minorities.
The percentage of interns who are minorities stands at 26.4 percent, a decrease from 28 percent last year.
Minorities represented 16 percent of the journalists hired for their first full-time newsroom job down from 17.6 percent.
Women working full time in daily newspapers total about 17,300 or 37 percent. Minority women accounted for 16.6 percent of female newsroom staffers.
Men total just under 29,400. Minority men account for 11.5 percent of male newsroom staffers.
Since 2001, Asian American journalists have increased by 167, Latinos by 23 and Native Americans by 44. The number of Black journalists decreased by 539.