The editorial workforce at NPR comes pretty close to presenting a snapshot of America. For the past three years at NPR, whites have represented about 77 percent of the overall editorial workforce, although their numbers have increased. The other 23 percent self-identified as black, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian or two or more races. Out of 50 newsroom managers, 18 self-identified as representing a non-white racial category, or 36 percent. Taken together, NPR workforce diversity generally reflects the U.S. Census.
“Just as we desire to sound like America in our journalism and in our broadcasting programs, we really think it’s important to think like America in our leaders,” said Michael Oreskes, NPR senior v.p. of news. “I think you can see from the numbers, in some overall way, we aren’t doing badly, but clearly there’s a lot more work to do at several levels.”
One area needing attention is recruitment of Latinos, particularly in supervisory roles, Oreskes said. After American Indians, Hispanics have the smallest representation at NPR, representing about 5 percent of the editorial workforce. The U.S. Census puts Hispanics at about 17.6 percent of the U.S. population.
Both Asians and blacks are represented at 9 percent, although Asian representation and staff numbers has increased over the past three years. Black representation has mostly persisted at the same level, but overall editorial staff numbers have declined.
To create pipelines for leadership, NPR has supported staff members in training opportunities with the American Society of News Editors and Punch Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Oreskes declined to name the structural impediments to nonwhite employees seeking advancement, but said it’s an important area NPR is always seeking out.
Another challenge is broadening the applicant pool, and reaching out across different corners of journalism. Every job opening has a diverse search committee in hopes of engaging more perspectives, and increasing the likelihood of diverse finalists, Oreskes said.
“We keep our eyes open for people around journalism or around broadcasting that have a certain level of leadership and can rise to a higher level of leadership,” Oreskes said.