Asian American Journalists Association Calls for Newspaper Editors Not to Lose Sight of Diversity Amidst Industry Changes

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AAJA Convention to Emphasize Skills Training for Journalists to Succeed in Today's Newsrooms

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 26, 2007) - With newspapers across the country experiencing dramatic changes in recent months due to consolidation, convergence and staff downsizing, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) today called for the nation's newspaper editors not to lose sight of the importance of diversity in newsrooms and in the coverage of the country's diverse communities.

"Now more than ever as we navigate tremendous challenges, it is crucial for industry leaders to ensure diversity at all levels. Diversity is fundamental to fair and accurate coverage of communities of color, which are growing exponentially nationwide," said AAJA President Jeanne Mariani-Belding, attending the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), held March 27-30 in Washington, D.C.

AAJA's call for ensuring diversity came in response to today's release of the ASNE annual newsroom census, showing an overall decrease in minority staffers for only the second time since ASNE began undertaking the survey. Asian Americans now comprise 3.27% of the total newsroom workforce in the U.S., a slight increase of 0.05% from last year. That still falls short of achieving parity with the current Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population of more than 5%.

There also was 1% increase in the number of AAPI newsroom supervisors this year.

"While it's encouraging to see the number of Asian Americans in our newsrooms increase, clearly there's much more work to be done in terms of attaining diversity in our management ranks, particularly at the highest levels. Having journalists of color in key decision-making roles not only enriches our journalism, but also reflects a true commitment from media companies to reflect America's demographics and properly serve our core audiences," said Mariani-Belding, who is also editorial and opinion editor at The Honolulu Advertiser.

According to the ASNE survey, there are 392 newspapers with no minorities on staff, an increase from last year's 377. "Those numbers must change if newsrooms are to properly serve our communities effectively. Having no journalists of color is simply unacceptable, regardless of the size of these newsrooms," Mariani-Belding added.

ASNE's annual newsroom census is used as a benchmark for the industry in assessing the aggregate number of journalists of color working for newspapers. ASNE's diversity mission is for its member newsrooms to mirror the population, with the goal of achieving parity with the general population by the year 2025 or sooner. For detailed survey results, go to www.asne.org.

Rene Astudillo, AAJA Executive Director said that for its part, "AAJA continues to provide its members with the best training possible so that professionals and students alike can keep up with technological and other sweeping changes that are happening in newsrooms today.

"We encourage newsrooms to use AAJA as a resource when looking to hire qualified staff - whether they are entry-level or management positions," Astudillo added. Two of AAJA's signature programs include J Camp, a week-long journalism training program for high school students and the Executive Leadership Program, designed to prepare mid-career journalists for management-level positions.

In a separate statement issued yesterday, UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc, of which AAJA is an alliance partner, said that embracing diversity in newsrooms cannot continue to be a slow process, citing the lack of significant progress in attaining ASNE's goal of parity by 2025. For the full text of the UNITY statement, visit unityjournalists.org.

AAJA will hold its 19th annual national convention Aug. 1-4 in Miami, where more than 1,000 journalists, recruiters and community leaders from across the country will gather. At this year's convention, multimedia skills sessions and cross platform training are the main focus, relevant in an age when mainstream media reporters and editors are increasingly asked to take on additional roles as photographers, videographers, bloggers, and talk show experts. Key speakers will address the future of journalism and the new landscape of media changes fueled by technology and budget challenges. Registration for the convention is now available at www.aaja.org.

About AAJA
The Asian American Journalists Association is a non-profit professional and educational organization with more than 2,000 members today. Founded in 1981, AAJA has been at the forefront of change in the journalism industry. AAJA's mission is to encourage Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) to enter the ranks of journalism, to work for fair and accurate coverage of AAPIs, and to increase the number of AAPI journalists and news managers in the industry. AAJA is an alliance partner in UNITY Journalists of Color, along with the Native American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists. For more information on AAJA, visit www.aaja.org.