By Damian C. Reynolds
African-Americans are reminded everyday they need to work twice as hard to be half as good as their white counterparts. Working in journalism is no different.
There has historically been a lack of diversity in a majority-white media industry. People of color and women have been more respected as media professionals over the years, but black journalists are still a scarcity.
As demand for the news business declines, so does the number of black journalists according to a 2014 poll from the Pew Research Center. Consider the following numbers from 2013.
- The percentage of black journalists dropped from daily newspapers since 1997.
- The percentage of black journalists in local television news.
- The percentage of black journalists in radio and black newspaper supervisors.
- The percentage of black TV news directors.
A couple of black journalists commented about what they like about journalism and what challenges they face as black journalists. They both currently work in newsrooms, so their real names will not be used.
Christine is a multimedia journalist and graduated from a predominantly white institution. She says she likes being a journalist because it allows her to meet new people everyday and interact with the community to help voice its concerns.
“I love being able to use more than just my writing skills to do it,” Christine said. “I believe video is just as important if not more important than writing the story.”
Justin is a sports anchor and graduated from a historically black college. He says the most rewarding part of journalism is having the honor to tell some of the community’s overlooked stories.
“I like being able to shed a light on an issue the community needs to be informed about,” Justin said, “and would otherwise be blind to.”
Justin and Christine both understand the challenges black journalists face.
“The toughest part about being a black journalist is that’s the first thing people see,” Justin said. “People formulate judgement on when they watch me, or see me covering an event. That doesn’t mean it’s good or bad, it just means I’m the black journalist, while the guy next to me is just a journalist.”
Christine thinks there has been a lot of progress made by hiring more black journalists as reporters and anchors, but she also believes there’s room for improvement.
“I think the biggest challenge black journalists face is not being able to move up into management positions,” Christine said. “I think there are very few black news directors and other upper positions of management that I would like to see more of.”
Being a black face in an ever-growing majority-white media industry is difficult, especially when the camera is on. African-Americans have to work twice as hard just be be half as good as their white counterparts.
Black journalists have trouble advancing in the media industry, which makes sense. Historically, white men controlled the industry. Lyndon Johnson signed The Civil Rights Act of 1964 only 52 years ago. America finally elected a black president in 2008, after 232 years of existence.
Yes, there’s been much improvement over the years, but there’s also room to grow. Black people have little room for error and no room for mediocrity.
White America is still adapting to minorities being just as talented as them. Black people are not entitled to certain jobs in the media industry. But lack of consideration to put black people in higher positions needs to change.