Most journalists working in nonprofit news are moving over from other news organizations.
Some nonprofit online news organizations — such as the Honolulu Civil Beat, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune — have newsroom staffs that are as racially diverse as those at the country’s biggest newspapers.
Current.org studied recent diversity hiring numbers released by the American Society of News Editors and found that those and some other nonprofit online publications were about on par with the country’s newspapers in hiring women and minorities.
The bad news is that most news organizations, nonprofit or for-profit, are not hiring staffs that are as diverse as America is overall — and that’s an elusive goal ASNE member organizations are trying to achieve.
Despite that, the revelation that many nonprofit news organizations are at least paying attention to diversity is encouraging. The online publications could become a viable option for young journalists of color and women who haven’t been hired by newspapers or other for-profit news organizations.
Also, some journalists laid off by for-profit news agencies are turning to nonprofit journalism.
Many nonprofit news organizations are members of the Institute for Nonprofit News. The INN started in 2009 and now boasts more than 100 members, including the Honolulu Civil Beat, a six-year-old startup said to be the most racially diverse INN member. It has a staff that is 54.2 percent white, 20.8 percent Hispanic, 16.7 percent Asian and 8.3 percent Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. The Civil Beat did not report having African-Americans among its newsroom employees.
ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which all have large news staffs with dozens of people, also reported having diverse staffs. The St. Louis Beacon, which was folded into St. Louis Public Radio in 2013, reported a staff as being 76.9 percent white, 11.,5 percent black, 3.8 percent Hispanic and 3.8 percent Asian.
A total of 737 news organizations, including 91 online-only outlets, participated in the ASNE 2016 Diversity Survey. Some of the findings showed that nonprofit online organizations were more likely to hire minority staff than daily newspapers.
Sue Cross, INN’s executive director, told Current.org that diversity is crucial to nonprofit news organizations which often focus on watchdog journalism and undercovered community issues.
“It’s not surprising to me that nonprofit news organizations are roughly mirroring the diversity of the overall media, because we’re drawing from the same pool of people,” Cross told Current.org. “There is a talent pipeline issue for sure that people have to tackle.”
Cross acknowledges that not all nonprofit news organizations are getting it right. Some nonprofit news organizations reported their staffs were 100 percent white. However, editors at some of those outlets argued that their staffs were tiny — as few as three or four people.
“Technically, with one full time employee (me), we are 100 percent white,” Brandon Quester, founder and executive director/editor, told Current.org in an email. “I’d say taking into account the size of our newsroom, the listing is somewhat misleading.”