Racial diversity of NPR’s newsroom stays level over three years

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The racial makeup of NPR’s newsroom has changed little in the last three years, according to numbers shared by NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen.

NPR’s news and information division of 353 people was 77.6 percent white in 2015. The remainder of the staff was 8.8 percent black, 8.5 percent Asia and 4.2 percent Latino, with 0.8 percent reporting two or more races.

Meanwhile, white staffers made up 78.5 percent and 77.2 percent of the newsroom in 2014 and 2013, respectively. Black staffers made up 9.5 percent and 10.9 percent; Asian staffers made up 7.5 percent and 7.3 percent; and Latino staffers made up 3.4 percent and 4.2 percent.  So overall, the percentages changed little, with the exception of black staff declining 2 percent since 2013.

The NPR newsroom also skewed slightly more female, 54.7 percent, in 2015, up slightly from 2014, according to Jensen.

According to Jensen, NPR Senior Vice President of News Michael Oreskes will try “a new approach” to diversify the network’s news staff. Jensen writes:

NPR in the past has tended to hire from inside the public radio system, for example looking to employees at local public radio stations. But that does not help the public radio world as a whole. Now, Oreskes said, NPR is examining how it can step up its hiring of people with strong journalism experience from related industries, such as newspapers and television. That is not the obvious strategy it might seem to be; radio requires unique skills and the tendency in the past has been to hire those who are already familiar with the medium. Oreskes said NPR is looking at what kind of retraining might be provided to journalists from outside the radio world, as part of a strategy to broaden its recruitment efforts.

NPR is generally more diverse than U.S. news radio stations, according to the Radio Television Digital News Association. The workforce at news stations was 90.2 percent white, 4.4 percent black, 2.7 percent Latino and 1.7 percent, according to a 2015 study by the Radio Television Digital News Association. Compared to newsrooms at U.S. newspapers, NPR was also more diverse.

But NPR lags in diversity compared to some other newsrooms that publicize staff diversity. People of color accounted for 32.3 percent of BuzzFeed’s editorial staff in 2015 and 31 percent of the Washington Post‘s staff (according to the International Business Times), compared to 22.4 percent at NPR.

NPR is also working to improve the diversity of its sources, Jensen wrote in a previous column. She reported that NPR drew on more black sources in 2015 compared to the previous two years, but female and Latino sources were virtually flat over the same time frame.

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2 thoughts on “Racial diversity of NPR’s newsroom stays level over three years

  1. This idea of “improving diversity” is interesting because it implies some ideal amount of diversity. This includes diversity of staff, of guests, and of audience. So can anyone tell me what this ideal target goal of diversity is?

    Should the staff, audience, and guests exactly mirror the statistics of the nation as a whole? Is that the goal? If so can you clearly explain why from a point of view of the mission of NPR?

    If mirroring the national racial stats is not the goal then what is the goal and why?

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