For the first time, The Daily Tar Heel distributed an internal audit to gauge the diversity of our staff, asking questions on race, ethnicity, income level, education and more.
Though we don’t have data to compare to past years, the audit shows what the newsroom has always known: the staff of The Daily Tar Heel is overwhelmingly white and upper middle class from suburban areas.
The Daily Tar Heel is not the first newsroom to implement this, and this will not be the last time we publish a diversity audit. In order to be transparent about our newsroom and coverage, it’s crucial to first look within ourselves — which voices are not represented in our newsroom, who is being left out.
The best way to accurately cover our community is to have a staff that looks like our community. Unfortunately, the data proves that our newsroom does not.
This audit will be used to analyze our newsroom and formulate the next steps in our recruiting. As always, we welcome any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking at the data
Our survey was mandatory for all newsroom staffers, including writers, editors, photographers, designers and online & copy staffers, to fill out. In total, 223 filled out the survey.
Here's what we found:
- The majority of our staff is white. Only 6.47 percent of our staff is Black and 10 percent of our newsroom identifies as Latinx. Asians make up almost 18 percent of the newsroom. 3.48 percent of the staff identifies as “other.” We have no staffers who identified as Indigenous or native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
- Our newsroom is not representative of UNC’s undergraduate population, which was 8.1 percent Black in fall 2019.
- The editors and assistant editors are similar to the demographics of the newsroom as a whole. This, too, shows problems within the DTH — the inability for racial minorities to be able to rise the ranks and lead coverage. The Sharif Durhams Leadership Program, designed specifically to combat this issue, is now in its second year. This year’s cohort is leading the “Elevate” page, which promotes stories from marginalized communities.
- The DTH is also majority female, at 75.38 percent. Males make up 22.56 percent of the staff. 1.54 percent of the staff is nonbinary.
- When it comes to sexual orientation, 68.72 percent of the staff identified as heterosexual. About 8 percent identified as gay/lesbian, 17.95 percent identified as bisexual and 5.64 percent listed a different identity or preferred not to share.
- Looking at socioeconomic status, the typical DTH staffer came from an upper middle to upper-income home in the suburbs. Gate-keeping is common in journalism — staffers at DTH work unpaid, and beyond that face low-paying internships and an unstable job field. Almost a third of the staff has a family income of above $150,000, and 24.32 percent of the staff has a family income between $100,000 and $149,999.
This audit was a major wake-up call for our newsroom, proving what many of us, but especially people of color, have always known. The Daily Tar Heel has an embarrassing lack of diversity for a paper that is the main news source for an entire University, town and county. No major newsroom of more than 200 can claim to accurately cover its community when it only has 13 Black and 20 Latinx staffers.
The viewpoints and life experiences of a predominately white, upper class, cisgender newsroom can only go so far. As the Black Lives Matter and racial injustice protests transform our nation, it’s important our newsroom transforms with it — in fact, it should have made efforts to diversify a long, long time ago.
One way to ensure we are accurately covering our communities is with our newly implemented coverage tracker, which asks every writer a variety of questions about their sourcing. We started using the coverage tracker in September, and at the end of the semester found that 37.4 percent of our articles “highlight issues that are important to underrepresented communities.” We also asked staffers to reflect on who else they could have interviewed to expand the viewpoints in their story at the end of every read.
It’s a start, but there’s a long way to go — a process that will take years to fix. Change starts from the inside, and it begins by fostering an inclusive newsroom environment, by forming positions like the diversity, equity and inclusion officer, by retaining BIPOC staffers and hiring them as leaders.
Seeing these statistics was jarring. It reflects years of the DTH’s neglect to acknowledge diversity and create spaces for its marginalized staffers. The DTH has not only hurt itself but the local community for the lack of underrepresented voices in its newsroom, and we hope this audit is one of the first steps toward a better, more inclusive future.
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