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A new study highlighting how news coverage among journalists varies by gender and race found that only six percent of U.S. journalists identify as Black or African American.

Despite representing 12 percent of the U.S. population, Black Americans only represent six percent of working journalists, according to a new study from Pew Research Center.

The analysis surveyed nearly 12,000 working U.S.-based journalists and looked at 11 news beats: sports, government and politics, science and tech, economy and business, crime and law, local and state, environment and energy, entertainment and travel, social issues and policy, education and family, along with health.

black journalists
Left: Famous late 19th century Black journalist and NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells. Right: Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times journalist and 1619 project co-creator Nikole Hannah-Jones (Associated Press)

The survey found men are more likely than women to report on sports (83%), government and politics (60%) and science and tech (58%). Meanwhile, women are more likely to cover education and family (63%), social issues and policy (58%) and health (64%).

When it comes to race, Black, Hispanic and Asian American journalists are underrepresented in almost every news beat.

Black journalists from Ida B. Wells in the 19th century to Carl Rowan in the 20th century have played influential roles in providing news coverage that caused the nation to become more aware of systemic racism.

Today Black journalists like the Grio’s April Ryan, the NYT’s Nikole Hannah-Jones and CNN’s Omar Jimenez carry the torch of those who came before them.

Yet it’s unclear what more could be uncovered if more Black journalists were represented in the field.

Black Americans underrepresented in journalism

Compared to their share of the U.S. population, White Americans are overrepresented in the journalism field while Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans are lacking.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, White Americans represent roughly 61% of the U.S. population, but they account for 76% of journalists surveyed by Pew Research Center. Black Americans make up 12% of the population but represent just 6% of those surveyed.

The disparity is similar for Hispanic and Asian Americans. Hispanic Americans account for over 18% of Americans but just 8% of those surveyed. Asian Americans make up roughly 7% of the U.S. population but just 3% of journalists surveyed.

Broken down by news beat, Black Americans are underrepresented in every category except social issues and policy (15%). The same is true for Hispanic Americans for that category (20%). Asian Americans are underrepresented in every category except science and tech (7%).

Lack of Black journalists has an impact

For centuries, the lack of Black representation in the journalism industry has had a detrimental impact on how Black communities are perceived and treated.

Media 2070, an organization that advocates for federal funding for Black media, has created a documentary highlighting the racist history of the news media. From the beginning days of chattel slavery, white publishers would often publish runaway slave ads in their newspapers to earn revenue.

More recently, a study from a researcher in Northern Virginia found Black homicide victims were less likely to be humanized in news coverage. One example includes Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen wearing a hoody and holding tea and skittles who was murdered in 2012 by a racist vigilante, sparking the Black Lives Matter movement.

While some outlets tried to highlight his alleged marijuana use, thereby assassinating the deceased victim’s character, white school shooters are often described based on how their loved ones remember them.

The new Pew Research Center survey illustrates the disparities that continue to plague the journalism field. To view the full survey, click here.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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