Does your newspaper

reflect its community?

a Knight Foundation report

on newsroom minority employment

Presented at the American Society of Newspaper Editors

April 8, 2003, New Orleans

by Bill Dedman and Stephen K. Doig



1. How well do editors know the demographics of their communities?

One reason that editors may be making only slow progress toward their goal of employing minority journalists is that many editors believe they're a lot closer to the goal than they actually are. When the American Society of Newspaper Editors asks them the size of the minority populations in their communities, their estimate is far more often underestimated, not overestimated.

2. How many newspapers still have all-white newsrooms?

No people of color work in 372 American newspapers. Many of these all-white papers are small, but they have a combined weekday circulation of 4,113,752 -- more than USA Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post combined.(And that's not counting the more than 400 newspapers that don't reply to the ASNE survey.)

3. How close are most papers to parity with their minority communities?

Seven out of 10 U.S. newspapers are less than halfway to ASNE's declared goal.

4. Aren't some papers improving?

Yes. In the past year, 276 papers drew closer to parity with the community. But 215 papers declined. Only a third of the largest newspapers are at their all-time high-water mark in minority share of newsroom seats. The odd ducks are still the one-tenth of big-city dailies whose minority employment has reached parity with their minority communities.

5. Don't the largest newspapers hire away all the minorities from smaller newspapers?

Size matters. But size isn't determinative. There is a wide variation among newspapers of the same circulation. And some smaller newspapers employ a greater share of minorities than many larger papers.

6. Does it matter who owns the newspaper?

Apparently, yes. If you had to guess a newspaper's minority staff, the first question would be: Who owns it?



Table of contents

Page 1 Summary

` 2 List of tables

3 About the study

4 Covering America: An introduction by Dori J. Maynard

5 How well do editors know the demographics of their communities?

8 How many newspapers still have all-white newsrooms?

9 How close are most papers to parity with their minority communities?

10 Aren't some papers improving?

12 Don't the largest newspapers hire away all the minorities from smaller newspapers?

14 Does it matter who owns the newspaper?

15 Methodology and abbreviations

17 About the researchers

17 About the Knight Foundation

17 Where to find more information



List of tables

These tables are available on the Web at

1 All daily newspapers by state, with 2003 Newsroom Diversity Index

2 Top 200 newspapers by circulation, ranked by Newsroom Diversity Index

3 Top 200 newspapers, with minority staffing, 1990-2003

4 Top 200 newspapers, with editors' estimate of minority community, and community details

5a Large newspaper companies, ranked by Newsroom Diversity Index

5b Small newspaper companies, ranked by Newsroom Diversity Index

6 All-white newsrooms, ranked by community minority population

7 Non-responders: newspapers not replying to the ASNE survey


About the study

For 25 years, the American Society of Newspaper Editors has urged editors to improve news coverage by employing at least enough minority journalists to reflect their diverse communities. Each year, ASNE surveys every daily newspaper in the country, counting minority newsroom supervisors, reporters, copy editors, photographers and artists. And each year the ASNE survey report has shown the industry's progress in minority employment -- swift progress at first, but recently slow progress, not keeping up with the general increase in minorities in the country.

But not all newspapers are alike. In 2003, which newsrooms have reached the goal of parity, which ones have made progress, and which ones still are all-white? Which newspaper companies have the most faces of color in their newsrooms? And how well do editors know their communities, and thus the goal?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation asked researchers Bill Dedman and Steve Doig to compare the newsroom minority percentages that newspapers report to ASNE with the minority population of the actual circulation area where the paper has readers. The researchers used three tools: audited circulation data, the 2000 U.S. Census, and the ASNE survey. First, the newspapers' audited circulation data was used to draw the circulation area. Then the Census was used to determine the minority population of that area. Finally, the newspaper's minority staff figure reported to ASNE was compared with that community figure, to calculate a "Newsroom Diversity Index" by which newspapers, and companies, can be compared. A paper with the same newsroom minority percentage as the community minority percentate would score 100 on the index.

This report includes information on each of 1,426 daily newspapers, their companies, their staffs and their communities.



Covering America

By Dori J. Maynard

President, Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

In many ways the story starts in the mid-1960s, when the civil rights movement was morphing into the black consciousness movement. The story was huge. It had to be covered. Black reporters could get parts of it that white reporters could not. Black journalists suddenly found themselves in demand on white-owned newspapers. The change didn't happen because it was morally correct or a good marketing strategy. There wasn't time to worry about such niceties.

By 1978, a handful of African-American journalists had convinced key members of the American Society for Newspaper Editors to begin the annual ritual of counting journalists by race. The goal was for the nation's newsrooms to mirror the nation's society by the year 2000. The annual census would measure our steady progress.

Then the fires died, both literally and figuratively. We forgot why the numbers mattered. We argued it was simply "the right thing to do." We argued it was good business. But we forgot the truth of the heart of argument. Newspapers simply will not cover this nation well if they arenít as American as America, if they donít reflect America, if they donít have access to all corners of American life.

Yes, there has been progress. In 1978, journalists of color were 4 percent of the workforce. Last year, they were 12 percent. Still, in 2003 -- three years after we missed the mark and set a new goal -- to look at the numbers is to know we failed. "Diversity fatigue" reflects that feeling of failure. Journalists of color are frustrated that the industry could not make good on its promise. Newspaper editors are frustrated because they do not get credit for progress made.

Each year the numbers are issued. Each year we begin another round of the endless discussions that seem to get nowhere. Maybe it is time for a new conversation. A place to start is in how we look at the annual report. Numbers alone do not tell the entire story. The old numbers included more than one news clerk with no journalistic responsibility. The new numbers include Orage Quarles III, president and publisher of the News and Observer in Raleigh. There are, in fact, more editors of color on the ASNE board than there were reporters of color lobbying ASNE to get the numbers in the first place.

So the numbers are a start, but they should only be the beginning of the conversation. In a ground-breaking study funded by the Knight Foundation, Steve Doig and Bill Dedman look beyond the numbers to make the connections between individual newspapers and their communities. They have made some surprising discoveries. They have found that there are some newspapers, papers you might never suspect, that have gone beyond parity with the community. They also have found newspapers that have a responsibility to do much better.

This is the kind of information that can open up a discussion. Now perhaps, we can spend some time talking about how some papers made the progress. Perhaps there is the beginning of a road map for us to follow as we search for better ways to cover this increasingly complicated country. That's how this conversation started, and thatís what it should really be about: our ability to accurately and completely cover America. We know now we canít do that without a thoroughly American workforce. Thatís what the 1960s taught us.



1. How well do editors know the demographics of their communities?

One reason that editors may be making only slow progress toward their goal of employing minority journalists is that many editors believe they're a lot closer to the goal than they actually are.

ASNE asks editors for the "percentage of minorities in your primary newspaper circulation area." This year, for the first time, ASNE released that information. So Dedman and Doig measured how close editors' estimations of the size of the minority communities they serve were to the actual figures calculated from circulation reports.

To be as fair as possible, this comparison was made only for papers that filed ZIP Code circulation data, which provides the most precise tool for measuring where they sell papers. These are generally the larger newspapers.


Among the 623 papers that filed ZIP Code circulation data:



To refine those groups further, count as a close estimate one that is within 25 percent of the actual minority population. That is, if a paper's community was measured at 10 percent minority, and the editor's estimate was between 7.5 and 12.5 percent minority, that would count as only a slight miss.

Twice as many editors were far low in setting their minority goal as were far high. And quite a few editors were way off the mark: 75 editors picked a minority figure that was less than half of what the U.S. Census bureau reports for the ZIP Codes where those editors sell papers.

Among larger papers, the biggest discrepancies were at the:


For 45 papers, this misconception -- or difference in method of calculation -- makes all the difference. That is, the editors may be reassured that their paper has reached parity, but it may not have.The largest of these papers are Newsday, The Detroit News, and papers in Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, Buffalo, Spokane, Cape Cod, Albany, Salem, Ore., New Haven, Quincy, Mass., and Ann Arbor.

Besides those papers, nearly 400 more editors may be farther from parity than they think they are.

Why would an editor misperceive the minority community's size, so soon after the 2000 Census made that information available?

It could be that the editors' method of measuring their circulation area is just different from ours. Many editors may put down their "Designated Market Area," an advertising creation that some papers draw tightly, and some draw loosely.

Another possibility that emerged in conversations with editors was that editors were counting Hispanics as white. An editor in Florida had undercounted minorities by about a third, because the paper's circulation department had made the same error in reading figures from the 2000 Census.

Why? The Census can get complicated, but remember that the Census forms ask first about Hispanic ethnicity (a yes or no question). And then the Census asks about race, and the choices don't include Hispanic. That leaves a lot of Hispanics uncertain what to put down for the race question, and based on skin color most choose "white."

But journalists are not stuck with those definitions. The Census sorts out the categories for us, reporting not just the racial breakdown (white, black, Native American, Asian...) but also the race/ethnicity breakdown (Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Native American, non-Hispanic Asian). That latter portrait requires scrolling down a bit on most Census data pages on the Web, but that's what matches the common American parlance about race and ethnicity, and that's what matches the categories on the ASNE survey.



2. How many newspapers still have all-white newsrooms?

The number of all-white newsrooms remains significant, with 372 American newspapers having no people of color deciding what is news.

While these papers are not among the largest in the nation, they have a combined daily circulation of 4,113,752. That's more than USA Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post combined.

And that doesn't include any papers that employ no minorities but are among the 493 newspapers that don't respond to the ASNE survey. The non-response rate on the ASNE survey was essentially unchanged. In 2002, 479 papers did not respond (33 percent of papers surveyed). In 2003, 493 papers did not respond (35 percent).

Some of these all-white papers are in communities that are themselves nearly all white. Even in those, ASNE's goal calls for employment of at least one journalist of color.

But many of the all-white newsrooms are in communities with substantial minority populations.

Here are the all-white newsrooms in the least-white communities:


Community minority

Newspaper, State




The Greenwood Commonwealth, Mississippi




Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico




The Union-Recorder, Milledgeville, Georgia

Community Newspaper Holdings



Bastrop Daily Enterprise, Louisiana




Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Mississippi




The Daily News, Sunnyside, Washington




Ruston Daily Leader, Louisiana




Big Spring Herald, Texas

Community Newspaper Holdings



The Kodiak Daily Mirror, Alaska



Alamogordo Daily News, New Mexico




Camden News, Arkansas

Wehco Media



Valley Times-News, Lanett, Alabama



The Sun, Texas City, Texas




Blytheville Courier News, Arkansas




Washington Daily News, North Carolina



Aiken Standard, South Carolina

Evening Post



La Grange Daily News, Georgia



The Daily Advance, Elizabeth City, North Carolina




Daily News, Bogalusa, Louisiana




The Union Daily Times, South Carolina



3. How close are most papers to parity with their communities?

A Newsroom Diversity Index was calculated for each newspaper for this year and for last year. It simply is the newsroom staff minority percentage divided by the community minority percentage. Thus, a paper at the ASNE goal of parity with its community would have an index of 100. A paper halfway to parity would have an index of 50.

% of newspapers

No. of newspapers





100 percent parity or better





75 to 99 percent





50 to 74 percent





25 to 49 percent





1 to 25 percent





All-white newsrooms







There has been a decline in papers employing no minority journalists, dropping from 45 percent to 40 percent of papers responding.

Still, how many papers are even halfway to ASNE's goal? Only one in three.




4. Aren't some papers improving?

Yes, most large papers employed a higher percentage of minority journalists than a year earlier.

Looking at the raw ASNE figures, among the top 100 papers:

Large papers that reached parity with their communities this year include:


The picture was cloudier, though, when comparing all newspapers. Looking at the raw ASNE figures, among all newspapers:

And judging by the Newsroom Diversity Index, which factors in the circulation area for each year:

Another way of examining the pattern is a statistical analysis of the data, which does offer evidence that many newspapers are sensitive to building newsrooms that look something like the communities they serve. The analysis shows a moderately strong relationship between the minority percentage in papers' circulation areas and the percentage of minority journalists. In other words, the greater the community minority percentage, the more likely a paper is to have a larger proportion of minority journalists.

But the analysis shows that the trend across the industry does not come near the ASNE ideal of parity. Of the papers who reported to ASNE, the analysis shows that every 10 point increase in community minority percentage is accompanied by only about a 4 point increase in newsroom percentage. But this is an overall view; there is a great deal of variation from paper to paper. The outliers are the few papers that have reached the goal of parity, and the many still stuck at zero minority journalists.

The analysis also shows that about 40 percent of the variation in newsroom percentage across papers can be predicted by the corresponding community percentage, but clearly other factors figure heavily as well. Ownership clearly is one. But some other factors that can't be measured play a role, such as desire to meet the goal, desirability of the community as a place to live, racial change in the community, the reputation of a newspaper, supply of minority journalists in that area, extent of the paper's recruiting.



What about the long-term trend in newsroom minority employment? The study looked at ASNE surveys from 1990 through 2003:

Out of the top 100 newspapers:

Out of all newspapers:

Of papers which responded this year, and which have reported employing at least one minority journalist at some point from 1990 to 2003:

One way to read this is that fewer papers reached their peak this year than last year. Another way is to note that about 400 papers set a high-water mark in the 1990s that they haven't regained since.





5. Don't the largest newspapers hire away all the minorities from smaller newspapers?

Here's how the Newsroom Diversity Index breaks out by size of newspaper:


Group Median index Highest Lowest

of reporting Diversity Diversity

newspapers Index Index

a) Over 500,000 circulation 43 65 (Newsday) 33 (LA Times)

b) 250,001 to 500,000 65 113 (Boston Globe) 32 (San Diego)

c) 100,001 to 250,000 59 156 (Lexington) 21 (Tampa)

d) 50,001 to 100,000 45 199 (Sioux Falls) 0 (several)

e) 25,001 to 50,000 39 302 (St. Cloud) 0 (many)

f) 10,001 to 25,000 24 1,313 (Mountain Home) 0 (many)

g) 5,001 to 10,000 0 1,893 (Monroe) 0 (many)

h) 5,000 and under 0 732 (Little Falls) 0 (many)


Size matters, judging from the median index. Among larger papers, the typical Diversity Index is higher.

But size isn't determinative. There is a wide variation in index scores within each group. For every large paper that has met the goal, several have not. And many small papers are above parity, or close to it, while hundreds of others are still at zero.

How many of the largest newspapers have minority staffs that are as diverse as their communities?

Among the top 100 papers in circulation:

% of newspapers

No. of newspapers





100 percent parity or better





75 to 99 percent





50 to 74 percent





25 to 49 percent





1 to 25 percent





All-white newsrooms





(This year, 9 newspapers in the top 100 didn't respond to the survey; last year, 12.)

As this chart shows, there was some improvement at the top for the largest 100 papers, with three more papers at parity, for a total of 10. But the number of papers below half of parity barely moved, staying at about one in three papers.



Among the top 100, the highest Diversity Index was at these 10 papers:




Diversity Index


Lexington Herald-Leader



The Beacon Journal, Akron



The Des Moines Register



The Syracuse Newspapers



The Tennessean, Nashville



The Boston Globe



The Oregonian, Portland



The Knoxville News-Sentinel



Detroit Free Press



Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


And the lowest at these:



Diversity Index


Richmond Times-Dispatch



The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville



The San Diego Union-Tribune



Tulsa World



Los Angeles Daily News, Woodland Hills



The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk



Boston Herald



Telegram & Gazette, Worcester



Daily Herald, Arlington Heights



The Commercial Appeal, Memphis



The Tampa Tribune







6. Does it matter who owns the newspaper?

Apparently, yes.

Among the larger newspaper groups, the average index of all their papers (weighted by circulation) are:

Group Average Diversity Index

Gannett 79

Knight-Ridder 74

McClatchy 71

Advance (Newhouse) 64

Community Newspaper Holdings 62

New York Times 60

Pulitzer 59

Cox 58

Dow Jones 53

Tribune 49

Washington Post 48

Belo 46

Hearst 43

Lee 41

Scripps 41

Journal Register 40

Copley 39

Freedom 38

MediaNews 36

Hollinger 28

Morris 27

Media General 27

Ogden 22

Liberty 19

Paxton 9

(These are circulation-weighted averages, with larger papers in the group counting more toward the average. Only groups with at least 500,000 total circulation, or at least 20 newspapers, are included.)

The list is led by companies with well-known programs of rewarding managers -- with bonuses -- for minority recruitment.




Methodology and abbreviations

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation asked researchers Bill Dedman and Steve Doig to compare the figures that newspapers report to ASNE with the minority population of each paper's circulation area. They used the 2000 U.S. Census for demographic information. The circulation areas were drawn to reflect where newspapers actually sell papers, using audited circulation data filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations whenever available.

The study includes all information on the communities of 1,426 newspapers surveyed by ASNE. Of those, 933 responded to the ASNE survey, a response rate of 65 percent.

Each newspaper was given a score, or Newsroom Diversity Index, to indicate its relative success in reaching parity with its community. A newspaper scored 100, for example, if its news staff and its community had the same minority percentage.

The analysis used three types of data: newsroom staffing, circulation, and the 2000 Census.

The newsroom staffing figures came from the annual surveys of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. ASNE counts as minorities Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and Native Americans. Its survey includes newsroom supervisors, reporters, copy editors, photographers and artists. ASNE reports only a single "minority" percentage for each paper. ASNE collects, but does not make public, the breakdown by job and race, and the newspaper's estimate of the minority population in its circulation area. ASNE provided a list of newspapers surveyed, allowing the researchers to list the papers that did not respond.

The researchers determined each newspaper's circulation area from reports filed by newspapers with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The latest available figure was used, usually for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2002.

The most precise available figure to represent the circulation area was used in each case.

First, for the three national papers without circulation centered in any one community -- USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor -- this study used the U.S. minority population (30.9 percent) as the target. The three national papers are marked as "USA" in the source column. (One could have considered The New York Times a national paper, but that would have given it a strong advantage over the other New York papers, by lowering its target. The Times newsroom staff is 17.1 percent minority. Its circulation area, measured by the circulation figures it files, is 43.5 percent minority; that yields a Newsroom Diversity Index of 39. If one had used the national population, its Diversity Index would have been 55.)

If a paper filed circulation figures for ZIP Codes, this study used those. In all, 855 papers filed ZIPs. Most large and medium-sized papers are in this category: 466 of the top 500 papers. These papers are marked as "ZIP" in the Source column.

If a paper filed only counties, this study used those. These 25 papers are marked with "COUNTIES" in the source column.

That leaves 543 (mostly smaller) papers with no ABC data to describe a circulation area. Most of those papers are the only newspaper in their home county, and for those the home county was presumed to be the circulation area. A few competing dailies in the same city did not file ABC data, and so the home county was used for them as well. Altogether, these 489 papers are marked as "HOME."

The remainder of those papers posed the Palo Alto problem. When a paper was not the only one in the county, and was located in a smaller city in the county, it wouldn't be fair to assign the demographics of all of, say, Santa Clara County (56 percent minority) to the newspaper in Palo Alto (where the city is 27 percent minority). This problem applies to suburbs, but also to cities that are population islands in far-flung counties (such as in Arizona). This study used a rule of 10 percent: If the newspaper's circulation reached 10 percent of the number of households in the county, suggesting substantial circulation, the county demographics were used. If the circulation was below 10 percent, then the home city's minority population was evaluated, and the lower of the two figures was used -- the city or the county -- because the goal was not to disadvantage any newspaper. In most cases, the city figure was lower (because the suburbs were whiter than a big city in the same county). (These papers are marked as "CITY.") In a few cases, the county figure was lower. (These papers are marked as "COUNTY.") And in the rare instances when two papers under the same ownership report jointly to ASNE, this study used a weighted average of their city figure for the comparison; if that was the lower figure and was used, the papers are marked as "CITIES."

Finally, minority population figures for the circulation area were calculated from the 2000 U.S. census. ASNE's definition of minority was used, including everyone except non-Hispanic whites. To compare the top 200 newsrooms with a decade earlier, the Globe used newsroom employment figures from 1992, or the closest year available from the period 1990-1995. Circulation figures by ZIP code were not available for fall 1991, so for this comparison county-level circulation figures were used for both fall 1991 and fall 2001.

For some parts of the analysis, newspapers were grouped into circulation classes, based on Monday-Friday daily averages, as follows: a) Over 500,000 circulation; b) 250,001 to 500,000;c) 100,001 to 250,000; d) 50,001 to 100,000; e) 25,001 to 50,000; f) 10,001 to 25,000; g) 5,001 to 10,000; h) 5,000 and under.



About the researchers

Bill Dedman is a consultant for The Boston Globe, where he writes investigative articles, helps other reporters and editors, and trains the staff in computer-assisted reporting. He also teaches advanced reporting at Boston University. In 1989, he received the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for "The Color of Money," a series of articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on racial discrimination by mortgage lenders. His Power Reporting site on the Web is used by many journalists as a starting point for research, and he has led seminars in more than 100 newsrooms. He was the first director of computer-assisted reporting for the Associated Press. Bill started in journalism at age 16 as a copy boy at The Chattanooga Times, and covered Sammy Sosa for The New York Times. E-mail him at

Stephen K. Doig holds the Knight Chair in Journalism, specializing in computer-assisted reporting, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication of Arizona State University. Before joining ASU in 1996, he was research editor of The Miami Herald, where he worked for 19 years. Various computer-assisted projects on which he worked at The Herald have won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the investigative Reporters and Editors Award, the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, and other awards. He serves as a member of the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors. Steve's research interests include helping journalists use social science methods and census and other demographic information to enhance their understanding of and reporting about community issues. E-mail him at

The researchers thank the staff of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, particularly Bobbi Bowman and Scott Bosley, for their cooperation in making the survey data available.



About the Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.


Where to find this information on the Web

This report is available in a PDF file for easy printing, and full tables are available as well.

The address is

And ASNE's raw numbers and a news release are at