Publishers’ newest workforce diversity reports reveal mixed results in efforts to diversify newsrooms

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By Sara Guaglione  •  June 10, 2024  •

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Ivy Liu

This spring, Gannett, NPR and The New York Times released the latest versions of annual reports sharing the diversity of their workforces, joining companies like Condé Nast, Hearst and Vox, which released their reports in the last six months.

The reports show mixed results in companies’ efforts to diversify their newsrooms. Digiday has tracked these efforts since companies began publicly releasing data on their demographics following a media reckoning that was ignited by the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Condé Nast and NPR improved the diversity of their staff by a few percentage points in 2023, as did Gannett (which published data on their workforce as of Jan. 1, 2024). But white people made up the same share of the employee base at Hearst and The New York Times in 2023, compared to 2022. Meanwhile at Vox Media, the percentage of white employees increased year over year.

Hearst, the Los Angeles Times, NPR and Vox Media laid off employees in 2023, which may have contributed to the changes in their workforce demographics. Recent layoffs at Condé Nast and Gannett did not go into effect before their data was collected. More layoffs have since taken place at the L.A. Times this year.

Overall changes in diversity

Here are the changes in overall diversity at six publishers that have released the demographics of their employees in the past six months:

  • Condé Nast’s workforce was 61% white in 2023, down one percentage point from 2022.
  • NPR’s workforce was 56% white in 2023, down three percentage points from 59% in 2022.
  • Gannett’s employees were 63% white as of January 2024, down eight percentage points from 71% in 2023.
  • Hearst’s overall workforce was 70% white in 2023, the same share compared to 2022.
  • The proportion of white employees at The New York Times’ also stayed the same, at 60%.
  • Vox Media was 61% white, up two percentage points compared to 2022.
  • At the L.A. Times, 49% of the overall workforce was white in December 2023, up from 42% in 2022, according to internal data shared with Digiday.

When asked about the large year-over-year shift in the demographics of Gannett’s employees, a company spokesperson said this was partly due to a change in the way the data is being published. Previously, Gannett updated year-over-year demographic trend data on its corporate website in July, and in its published reports in January. But starting this year, the company will only report annually in January, and the latest data on its site reflects those changes, they said.

Company restructurings, layoffs, hiring freezes and other budget constraints have slowed the rate of improvements in diversity across the media landscape — with the data showing smaller changes in publishers’ workforces year over year. Even still, there have been notable improvements, and several media businesses have slowly become less white and male-dominated over the past four years.

But it appears some publishers have turned their attention away from this work recently — or at the very least, aren’t prioritizing holding themselves accountable publicly with the same commitment levels that were seen in the past.

The Los Angeles Times stopped publishing its robust reports on workforce diversity in 2022. Last December, a company spokesperson told Digiday this was due to “major restructuring” at the company, including layoffs and the sale of the San Diego Union-Tribune. It remains unclear if the L.A. Times will resume publishing those reports publicly. A spokesperson from the company said they were not sure when updated data would be available. The L.A. Times shared internal demographic data with Digiday in December 2023.

In its latest workforce report published in July 2023, The Washington Post noted that this year it would begin publishing reports in January to align with its fiscal year. The Post has not published a report this year, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gannett didn’t break out its newsrooms in its workforce diversity report. USA Today, its biggest newsroom, hasn’t publicly released demographic data since July 2022.

“The cost of investing in DEI efforts and in having rigorous efforts to attract diverse staff and foster an inclusive environment that advances diverse talent can fall off the strategic priorities of the C-suite and board when they feel short term pressure to perform,” CJ Bangah, a principal in PwC’s technology, media and telecommunications practice, said in an email.

Editorial

Improvements in the diversity of publishers’ editorial teams was also mixed when comparing year-over-year data. The share of white people in editorial increased at NPR and Vox Media, but slightly decreased at Condé Nast and stayed the same at The New York Times.

  • Condé Nast’s editorial division was 62% white, down one percentage point from 2022.
  • The L.A. Times’ newsroom was 50% white in 2023, according to the company spokesperson — down one percentage point from 2022.
  • The New York Times’ news and opinion departments remained 66% white, the same as last year.
  • NPR’s “audience facing journalists” (including reporters, hosts and correspondents) is 66% white, up three percentage points from 2022.
  • Vox Media’s editorial department was 63% white, up three percentage points year over year.

Leadership

It was also a mixed bag regarding improvements among the diversity of leadership at these companies:

  • Senior leadership at Condé Nast was 75% white, down three percentage points from the year prior.
  • At Gannett, leadership was 80% white, also down three percentage points.
  • NPR’s supervisors were 61% white, down one percentage point.
  • Hearst leadership — defined as managers and above — remained the same at 77% white (that number hasn’t moved in three years).
  • Vox Media’s leadership was 61% white, also the same for the past three years.
  • At The New York Times, leadership was 68% white, up one percentage point.

New hires

People of color represented a smaller percentage of some media companies’ new hires in 2023 compared to 2022, based on how new hires self-identified.

At The New York Times, 55% of new hires were white (down from 53% in 2022) and 42% self-identified as people of color (down from 44%). The remaining 3% of new hires did not disclose their race or ethnicity. Fifty-three percent of new hires at The New York Times were women, down from 56% in 2022.

At Vox Media, 39% of new hires in 2023 self-identified as people of color, down from 44% in 2022.

Half of the new hires at Condé Nast self-identified as white, one percentage point up from the previous year. In 2023, 33% of new hires self-identified as people of color, compared to 39% in 2022. (But 18% were undeclared, compared to 12% in 2022.)

At Hearst, 59% of new hires self-identified as white (and 48% self-identified as women), the same as in 2022.

Gender

Gender diversity at the media companies’ overall employee base didn’t change much year over year.

In 2023, the share of female employees stayed the same at Hearst (48%), The New York Times (55%) and Vox Media (60%), compared to 2022.

NPR’s female employee base increased by one percentage point to 55%.

However, the share of women at Condé Nast and Gannett decreased by one percentage point in 2023 compared to 2022, to 66% and 45%, respectively.

https://digiday.com/?p=547344

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