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Cronkite School Conducts UNITY Diversity Research

March 30, 2008

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication will unveil two major journalism diversity projects at the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention in Chicago this summer.

Both projects are funded by the McCormick Foundation.

The work includes a Web-based clearinghouse for research on news diversity issues and a census of ethnicity of the Washington press corps. The Washington study is a follow up to a 2004 study conducted for UNITY by Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan when he was at the University of Maryland.

“We are honored to support UNITY, Dean Callahan and the Cronkite School in providing relevant information and analysis on the diversity in journalism challenge,” said Clark Bell, journalism program director of the McCormick Foundation. “The foundation is deeply committed to preparing active and engaged citizens and believes that the journalism diversity movement is key to enabling a variety of voices to speak up and be heard.”

The research projects are headed by Professor Stephen Doig, the Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School who has conducted an annual newsroom diversity study funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Doig, a national expert in computer-assisted reporting, will create the UNITY/McCormick Foundation Electronic Clearinghouse for News Diversity Research. It will consist of a searchable online database of articles in academic and professional journals that relate to diversity in journalism.

Doig said the database will cover a wide range of topics about diversity, including newsroom personnel, sources, portrayals in the media and journalism education.

“The purpose is to make it easy for newsroom professionals to find and use such research,” Doig said.

The 2004 census of the Washington Press corps found that only 10.45 percent of the correspondents and editors representing daily newspapers in the nation’s capital were journalists of color. The representation of journalists of color was even lower at the top leadership positions.

The follow-up study will again gather detailed data on the race and ethnicity of the journalists covering Washington for U.S. newspapers and identify significant changes from the 2004 research.

“The updated census will reveal much more than whether newspapers have made progress in diversifying their Washington bureaus,” said UNITY President Karen Lincoln Michel. “It will also indicate the value that newspapers as a whole place on ensuring that the most elite group of journalists in the nation reflects the racial and ethnic makeup of the rest of the country.”

Doig is well-versed in diversity research: He conducts an annual study for the Knight Foundation that traces the historical record of non-white employment at newspapers across the country and compares those numbers to the makeup of the circulation areas served by the papers. The study is among the nation’s most-relied-upon measures of newsroom diversity.

Doig joined the Cronkite faculty in 1996 after a 23-year career in newspaper journalism. He was part of an investigative team at The Miami Herald that won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for an analysis on how weakened building codes and poor construction contributed to the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew.

His current projects will be unveiled at the 2008 UNITY convention, to be held July 23-27 in Chicago.

The McCormick Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to making life better for children, communities and the country. Through its charitable grant-making programs, Cantigny Park and Golf, Cantigny First Division Foundation and the McCormick Freedom Museum, the foundation positively impacts people’s lives and stays true to its mission of advancing the ideals of a free, democratic society.

UNITY: Journalists of Color is an alliance of four major national journalism organizations: Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Native American Journalists Association. Its mission is to advocate quality news coverage about people of color and improve ethnic diversity in the nation’s newsrooms.