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Diversity in hiring: Supply is there. Is demand?

Analysis

By Lee B. Becker
with George L. Daniels, Jisu Huh and Tudor Vlad
University of Georgia

09.12.02

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Lee Becker

Editor's note: Lee B. Becker is a professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia. Tudor Vlad is assistant director of the Cox Center, where George L. Daniels and Jisu Huh are doctoral students and research assistants. See details on the Annual Surveys of Journalism & Mass Communication.

Itís a myth that there are not enough minority applicants to alter the face of Americaís newsrooms.

The myth says journalism and mass communication programs across the country are not graduating enough students to meet the demand. The myth is wrong.

The myth says minority graduates are not interested in media careers. That, too, is wrong.

The myth says minority graduates looking for media jobs have not had internships or worked for the campus media or done other essential things to make them ready for the job market. Wrong again.

If daily newspapers — as one example — had hired all the minorities who graduated from journalism and mass communication programs and who sought jobs in the daily newspaper industry in 2001, they would have added 2,529 minority journalists.

Based on the projections of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the nationís daily newspapers only hired 2,292 people for their newsrooms in 2001, 19.5% of whom were minorities. Had all of those hired been minorities — which was theoretically possible given the supply — the newsroom workforce at the end of 2001 would have been 15.5% minority, rather than 12.1%. That figure takes into consideration that the newsrooms, according to ASNE, lost 443 minorities while hiring 447.

In fact, 2001 was not exceptional in terms of the characteristics of journalism and mass communication graduates. While the nationís journalism and mass communication programs significantly underrepresent minorities and the minorities who do attend are overly concentrated at a few institutions, the nationís journalism programs as a whole are producing minority graduates in significant numbers to make a real difference.

The inescapable conclusion from data we have gathered is that large numbers of minorities graduate from journalism programs, large numbers seek media jobs, and large numbers have the basic skills needed for media jobs. The data come from our ongoing project on journalism enrollments and the jobs journalism graduates seek and find when they graduate.

The problem is that many minority graduates do not get job offers, and many of those who do get offers decide not to take them. For whatever reasons — and there probably are many — the job market is not functioning efficiently enough to produce the kind of diversity industry leaders say they want and many — including us — feel is crucial if the media in this country are to serve their communities and the larger society.

The picture is complex, as the example of the daily newspaper industry illustrates. Not every opening is at the entry level. Not all applicants have the skills required for every job.

The point is a simple one: The problem isnít supply, at least in gross terms. The problem is that there is not a suitable link between supply and demand.

The challenge is figuring out what to do about the problem.

Our data offer a few suggestions.

  • First, minority graduates are not evenly distributed at journalism programs across the country. Our data show that African-American and Hispanic graduates are concentrated in two distinct types of institutions: those historically serving African-Americans and those serving students of Hispanic origin.

    In fact, 27.4% of the African-American journalism and mass communication bachelorís degree recipients in academic year 2000-2001 completed their studies at a Historically Black College or University. Some 4% more completed their studies at a university affiliated with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. These Hispanic-serving institutions granted 31% of the degrees earned by Hispanic students that academic year.

    Employers who want to find minority students will have to develop very close relationships with these institutions.

  • Second, employers have to worry about the minorities who donít enter the newspaper industry. In 2001, only one in five of the minorities who sought a job with a daily newspaper — again to pick one example — actually took a job with a daily. Three in 10 took another media job. One in five took a job outside the field of communication. And one in five was unemployed six to eight months after graduation. Of those who actually got an offer, only half took the daily newspaper job.

    Itís another myth that minorities have an easier time in the job market.

    Despite efforts by media organizations to diversify their workforces, despite the fact that racial and ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented among college journalism and mass communication graduates, and despite the oft-held view that minority graduates have advantages in the job market, journalism graduates who are members of minority groups have more difficulty getting communication jobs — and jobs in general — than do others.

  • Third, employers have to think creatively. Prospective employees may not have all the skills needed for a specific job. The question is: Can the potential employee be educated and trained for the position? If the applicant has the basics and the interest, other things probably can follow.

    The Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University is an attempt at such creativity. People of color with a commitment to journalism but no training who are nominated by newspapers are getting a crash course in the basics. They also get jobs at their nominating newspapers when they graduate.

    Investment in human capital is crucial. The industry has to be committed to it.

    For 15 years Iíve been directing the Annual Surveys of Journalism and Mass Communication, now housed in the Cox International Center at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. The project is funded by the Freedom Forum, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, ASNE and a host of other media foundations and organizations. We track enrollments in the nationís journalism programs, and we monitor the activities of graduates of those programs.

    In academic year 2001, our data show, the nationís 458 journalism and mass communication programs granted bachelorís degrees to 8,839 and masterís degrees to 809 individuals classified as members of racial or ethnic minority groups. These figures were obtained either directly from the journalism programs or indirectly from reports filed by that university with the federal government.

    At the undergraduate level, the minority graduates were 23% of those who earned degrees. To be truly reflective of the population, 31% of the graduates would have had to have been members of minority groups. At the masterís level, 25% of the degrees were granted to minority students.

    One-quarter of the bachelorís degree recipients classified as minorities sought a job with a daily newspaper upon graduation. Fewer than one in five of the white students did. Minority students also were at least as likely to seek jobs at weeklies, with the wire services, in radio and with broadcast and cable television. In fact, in all those cases, the percentages were slightly higher for minority students, although the differences were slight. Minority students are a bit less likely to seek employment in advertising and public relations.

    Masterís degree recipients, who make up about 8% of the minority journalism and mass communication graduates, looked for the same kinds of jobs as their counterparts.

    Of the minority bachelorís degree recipients, one in five had completed a newspaper internship. The percentage was just a bit lower for non-minority students. Only one in five of both groups had done no internships while in college.

    One-third of the graduates who were members of racial or ethnic minorities had worked for the campus newspaper. The figure was just slightly lower for the other graduates.

    Minority graduates were more likely to have completed their studies in print or broadcast journalism than were other graduates, and less likely to have specialized in advertising and public relations.

    Just under four in 10 of the journalism and mass communication bachelorís degree recipients who looked for jobs with daily newspapers actually got an offer, whether the applicant was a member of a racial or ethnic minority or not. Minority graduates who sought jobs with weeklies were less likely to get an offer than were those who were not members of a minority group. The same was true in radio. Otherwise, race and ethnicity were pretty much unrelated to receiving an offer. Clearly, there is no evidence that race and ethnicity are associated with higher employment.

    In fact, the reverse is true when all types of employment are examined together.

    Those journalism and mass communication bachelorís degree recipients who were members of racial or ethnic minorities were less likely than other graduates to have had a full-time job on Oct. 31, 2001 (when the survey first was fielded), less likely to have had a job several months later when they returned the questionnaire, and less likely to have a full-time job in communication.

    The gap in employment levels of graduates based on race and ethnicity has persisted for most of the years Iíve conducted the survey of journalism and mass communication graduates.

    The persistence of this gap is one of the surveyís most disappointing and perplexing findings.

    The myth says such a gap does not exist.

    Related

    Journalists of color feel greater impact of weakened job market
    Annual survey at University of Georgia finds percentage of students with full-time employment six to eight months after graduation dropped dramatically.  08.09.02

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