Journalism has long had a diversity problem. This lack of diversity has led to inequitable coverage and has affected the way important news stories are framed.
Media organizations that match the demographics of the communities they serve deliver better news coverage.
Recognizing this, the San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ diversity committee surveyed local newsrooms to find out where we stand as a region and to establish a baseline that future surveys can be measured against.
Survey responses from 11 participating newsrooms were collected between February and May of 2021, and the results represent 288 journalists working throughout the county.
The newsrooms that participated in the survey are the San Diego Business Journal, Times of San Diego, Voice of San Diego, San Diego Community Newspaper Group, KFMB CBS-8, The San Diego Union-Tribune, inewsource, KPBS, North Coast Current, San Diego Magazine, The Star-News, The East County Californian and The Alpine Sun. (The last three publications are under the same leadership and submitted one collective survey response.)
It is important to note that although all newsrooms in the San Diego region were invited to participate, only one local television station completed the survey (CBS 8). Nine newsrooms were contacted but chose not to participate.
Also, upon asking for clarification of earlier results, North Coast Current responded with different results in August than first reported in May. The earlier data was used to better compare to data from other newsrooms, but this illustrates how rapidly newsroom staff can change.
San Diego SPJ recognizes that local newsrooms may have experienced substantial staffing changes since the results were collected, and we appreciate your patience as our volunteer board has worked to encourage additional newsroom responses and to verify our findings. We hope these results will pave the way for future surveys, and we encourage newsrooms to share more about their diversity and hiring efforts in recent months.
White journalists make up the vast majority of news staff in the region, reflecting overall community statistics.
All but one small newsroom reported that white journalists represent 50% or more of their overall staff. At inewsource and KPBS, white journalists represented 79.6% and 72.5% of overall staff, respectively. Comparatively, 2019 Census estimates show that 75.4% of people in the region are white.
The survey showed a large disparity between the Latino/Hispanic community and San Diego journalists. Among the nearly 300 journalists represented in the survey, only 21.9% identify as Latino or Hispanic while 2019 Census estimates show that 34.1% of county residents identify as Latino or Hispanic.
Less than half of the newsrooms that responded to the survey employ Black journalists, and only two newsrooms employ Native American journalists. The San Diego Union-Tribune is the only regional newsroom that reported employing a Pacific Islander staff member.
While participating newsrooms employed non-white staffers, fewer than half had non-white managers.
Gender and Age
Males make up just over half, or 53.1%, of responding newsrooms, while they represent 50.3% of the region’s population, according to 2019 Census estimates.
More than half of San Diego journalists are between 30 and 49 years old, survey results show.
None of the local newsrooms reported having staff members under 20 years old, nor did they report having staff who identify as a gender other than male or female.
The SPJ San Diego survey invited participating newsrooms to elaborate on other ways their newsrooms were diverse and on steps they have taken to increase newsroom diversity.
Many of the participating newsrooms reported having staff that are diverse in other ways, including religious background and sexual orientation. Newsrooms also reported that staff included military spouses and veterans, parents of young children, parents of neurodiverse children, people from various economic backgrounds, immigrants and those living with disabilities.
Five newsrooms also reported taking steps toward making their staff more diverse and equitable, including:
- Sending hiring managers to the National Association of Black Journalists convention
- Prioritizing diversity in hiring efforts
- Posting job listings with organizations representing journalists of color
- Actively recruiting and creating a tracker of prospective job candidates
- Diversity, equity and inclusion training for both staff and managers
- Auditing pay scales to ensure staff are equitably paid
- Seeking freelance reporters from diverse backgrounds
- Partnering with diverse journalism organizations to recruit and hire interns
- Emphasizing Spanish language skills in recruiting efforts