RTDNA Research: Women and minorities in newsrooms

July 11, 2016 11:00

By Bob Papper, Professor Emeritus - Hofstra University
This is the eighth in a series of reports developed from RTDNA's annual survey of newsrooms across the United States. Topics in the series include what's new online, social media and mobile strategies, television and radio budgets and profits, stations doing news, news director profiles, and our most popular areas of research; newsroom salaries, women and minorities in newsrooms, and broadcast newsroom staffing. Past and future reports are added here as they are released.

Click here for our infographic summarizing the survey's findings.

The women and minorities survey highlights:
  • Record number of minority TV news directors
  • Mostly down minorities numbers in radio
  • Record number of women TV news directors and women in TV
The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey finds the minority workforce in TV news rose to 23.1%.  That’s up almost a full point from a year ago … and is the second highest level ever in TV news.  The minority workforce at non-Hispanic TV stations also went up to the second highest level ever.
The minority workforce in radio slipped again from the year before. 
In TV, women news directors and women in the workforce both rose to the highest levels ever. Second year in a row. The picture for women in radio news was more mixed.
Still, as far as minorities are concerned, the bigger picture remains unchanged.  In the last 26 years, the minority population in the U.S. has risen 11.8 points; but the minority workforce in TV news is up less than half that (5.3).  And the minority workforce in radio is actually down by nearly a point and a half.


The minority workforce in local television news rose by almost a point to 23.1%.  That’s the second highest level ever (behind 24.6% in 2001).  African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans all went up.  Asian Americans slid by 0.3.  Minorities are highest in top 25 markets, followed by markets 26 to 50.  Other market sizes are at or near the highest they’ve ever been, with market 151+ at a surprisingly high 18.1% minority.  Staff size varied from 21% to 28.1% minority -- which is the narrowest spread I can remember.  The minority percentages for network affiliates varied from 18.7% to 23.4%.  That’s the narrowest spread I’ve seen there as well.  As usual, stations in the South and West were far more diverse than stations in the Northeast or Midwest.   
Non-Hispanic TV
The minority percentage at non-Hispanic TV stations rose nearly a point to 21.2%.  That’s the second highest level ever – not far behind the record of 21.8% set in 2001. 
African American, Hispanic/Latino and Native American all went up from last year; Asian American fell slightly. 
At non-Hispanic stations, the minority breakdown is:
  • 11.4% African American… up from 11.1%
  • 6.7% Hispanic… up from 5.9%
  • 2.7% Asian American… down from 2.9%
  • 0.4% Native American… back up from 0.3%
Overall, 98.1% of the TV news workforce at Hispanic stations are Hispanic.  That's up from last year's 83.5%.  Another 0.5% are white; 1% are black; 0.5% are Asian American.  The survey found no Native Americans at any Hispanic stations participating in this year's survey. 
TV: Men vs. Women
Historically, in TV, men have outnumbered women for all groups except Asian Americans (where women have always outnumbered men) and Native American (which have commonly been about even).  But there have been some slow, steady changes in that equation.  At least part of it. 
As usual, the most striking disparity between men and women is among whites, where men are 58.4% of the total vs. 41.6% women.  That disparity has existed since at least as long as I’ve been doing the survey (22 years).  Hispanics are virtually dead even: 50.4% men and 49.6% women.  Both Asian American and Native American are predominantly women.  It’s highest among Asian Americans (as it always has been) with 63.1% women and 36.9% men, followed by Native American at 61.8% women and 38.2% men.  Interestingly, the overall disparity doesn’t vary much regardless of market size, staff size, affiliation or geography. 
TV News directors
Good news for minority news directors in TV.

The percentage of minority TV news directors hit an all-time high this year, at 17.1%.  That shatters the old record of 15.5% set in 2008.  African American news directors, at 5.5% hit their highest level ever (the old record was 4.3% ion 2014).  Hispanic/Latino, at 8.8%, was not far behind its all-time high of 9.3% in 2008.  Asian American, at 2.6%, tied its all-time high set in 2010.  At 0.3%, Native American was the only group actually down from a year ago.
The percentage of minority news directors at non-Hispanic stations also set a new record – at 13.9%.  The old record was 10.7% set back in 2012.  African American and Hispanic were both at 5.4% at non-Hispanic stations.  That’s a record high for both groups.  Asian American, at 2.7%, also hit a record high.  Native American fell a hair to 0.3%
Overall, Hispanic news directors were most often found in top 25 markets, newsrooms of under 31 employees and other commercial and non-commercial stations.  African American news directors were most often found in markets 26 to 100, ABC and NBC affiliates, non-commercial stations and in the South.  Minority news directors, generally, were least likely to be in the smallest markets (151+), at the very biggest newsrooms (51+ staffers), at NBC and Fox affiliates and stations in the Midwest.
TV: The bigger picture

Minority gains in TV this year are impressive – across the board.  The percentage of stations with minorities and minority news directors went up overall and in every single category of market size and staff size.  It went up for minority work force in almost every category (and was close in the few that didn’t go up).  Average number of minorities per newsroom also went up in almost every category.  Stations with minorities in the news staff rose by almost 3 points.  Minority news directors went up by almost 5.  The minority work force was up by almost 1. 
Minorities were less likely to be in newsrooms in the Northeast and at non-commercial stations.  Minority news directors were a bit less common at Fox and NBC stations and in the Northeast and especially the Midwest. 
TV: Women

Women TV news directors jumped more than two points from last year’s record to 33.1%.  Another record high. 
At 44.2%, women are at the highest percentage of the TV news work force ever, breaking last year’s record of 42.3%.  Those of you who memorize these reports may remember that I noted what appeared to be a growing discrepancy in the size of the female workforce based on market size.  The discrepancy isn’t growing, but it’s also not going away.  Women make up 42.1% of the workforce in the top 50 markets, but they make up 44.3% of the workforce in markets 51 to 100 and 46.1% in markets 101+.  Affiliation and geography make relatively little difference in the numbers. 
Note that the overall percentage of women TV news directors comes from a complete census of all TV news directors.  All the subsets on the data come from the survey itself.  For survey buffs (both of you), a smaller percentage of women TV news directors return the survey compared to men.  For whatever the reason, that's been true every single year since I started the census calculation in 2002.
TV General managers

Minority TV news directors may have hit a record high this year, but minority general managers did not.  Minority GMs edged up half a percent in the last year, and only half of that increase came among big four network affiliates.  Minority GMs were a bit more likely to be found at NBC and then CBS stations and stations in the South and West.

Minority general managers at non-Hispanic stations edged up slightly from 5.3% to 5.6%.  Just over half were Hispanic, at 3%.  That up a bit from last year.  African American, at 1.5%, dropped from a year ago while Asian American, at 1.1%, went up from last year.  Ninety percent of GMs at Hispanic stations were Hispanic.  The rest were white.
Percentages of women general managers are almost alternating going up and down.  This was an up year, with an increase of women GMs of 1.6.  Women GMs are most often found in markets 26 to 50 (as usual, by the way), at the biggest newsrooms, at Fox stations and in the South and West. 
Keep in mind that all the general manager figures for TV are for stations that run local news.  I don't collect this data from others in the survey, so it's not possible to project these numbers to the general universe of TV stations.
TV and Newspapers
The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has changed its survey schedule, and new results are not expected until sometime this summer.  Last year's (2015) numbers from ASNE found that minority journalists make up 12.8% of newsroom employees at daily newspapers.  That was down half a point from the year before.  The percentage of minorities in newspaper has changed little in more than a decade.

I'll update the comparison between TV and newspaper on the RTDNA website as soon as ASNE releases the 2016 numbers.
A mixed picture for minorities and women in radio in the past year.

The minority workforce in radio fell by 0.4 ... with African Americans and Native Americans dropping, Hispanic/Latino going up, and Asian American staying the same.  Non-commercial stations did a lot better in diversity than commercial ones (14.7% vs. 5.6% minority).  The bigger the market and the bigger the newsroom, the more diverse the radio news staff.  Interestingly, larger local station groups tended to be less diverse.  The South and West were more diverse than the Midwest and Northeast, but, for the first time in my memory, the Midwest wasn’t lagging way behind the rest of the country.  The Northeast was actually the least diverse this year.
Radio: Men vs. Women
In radio news, overall, there are more than twice as many men as women... with the highest disparity, by far, among whites.  Less lopsided, but still with noticeably more men than women, came Native American.  Men barely outnumbered women among Hispanic/Latino, and women outnumbered men among African Americans and Asian Americans. 
Radio News directors
Good news for minority news directors in radio.

After last year’s plunge, the percentage of minority radio news directors climbed back almost two and a half points.  African Americans made the biggest jump, but Hispanic and Native American were also both up.  Asian American remained at zero – the second year in a row that no Asian American radio news directors appeared in the survey.  Non-commercial stations were more likely to have minority news directors than commercial stations.  Staff size didn’t matter until you got to the very biggest radio newsrooms (10 and more staffers), where the percentage of minority radio news directors soared.  Minority news directors were much more likely to be in the biggest markets and at standalone stations.  They were least likely to be found in the Midwest. 
Radio: The bigger picture

Overall, minorities in large and major markets held their own or went up a bit in the last year.  But small markets were mixed, and medium markets fell.  Non-commercial stations were more than three times as likely to have minorities on staff as commercial stations, and the minority workforce was pushing three times the size at non-commercial stations.  Stations in the Midwest, overall, were much less likely to have minorities on staff than stations anywhere else.  As usual.
Radio: Women

In radio, women news directors went up by more than 4 points, but all the other categories went down.  The percentage of staffs with women fell by nearly 7, and the percentage of women in the workforce dropped by more than 7.  Non-commercial stations had way more women – both staff and as news directors – than commercial stations.  Stations with a news staff of one were overwhelmingly (85.7%) likely to be male.  Women were also least likely to be in the Midwest – either on staff or as news directors.
Major markets are those with 1 million or more listeners.  Large markets are from 250,000 to 1 million.  Medium markets are 50,000 to 250,000.  Small markets are fewer than 50,000.
Radio General Managers

After dropping by 5 points a year ago, the percentage of minority radio general managers dropped again – this time by 1.3.  Minority GMs were way more likely to be found in major markets … and least likely to be found in the Midwest.  Women general managers rose by nearly 2 points from last year, and they’re more likely to be found in large and major markets … and less likely to be found in the Midwest. 
For More Information
Alliance for Women in Media (AWM)
Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA)
Phone: (415) 346-2051
Fax: (415) 346-6343
Association for Women in Communication (AWC)
Phone: (417) 886-8606
Fax: (417) 886-3685
Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media
Phone: (212) 664-3773
International Women’s Media Foundation
(202) 496-1992
National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)
Phone: (301) 405-0248
Fax: (301) 314-1714
National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)
Phone: (202) 853-7754
National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association
Phone: (202) 588-9888
Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)
Phone: (405) 325-1649
Fax: (405) 325-6945
UNITY Journalists for Diversity
Phone: (414) 335-1478

Bob Papper is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Hofstra University and has worked extensively in radio and TV news.  This research was supported by the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University and the Radio Television Digital News Association.
About the Survey
The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2015 among all 1,681 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 4,037 radio stations.  Valid responses came from 1,286 television stations (76.5%) and 484 radio news directors and general managers representing 1,316 radio stations. Some data sets (e.g. the number of TV stations originating local news, getting it from others and women TV news directors) are based on a complete census and are not projected from a smaller sample.