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UNITY/McCormick News Diversity Database Launched

July 23, 2008

A digital clearinghouse for news diversity research was unveiled today at UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc.’s national convention in Chicago.

The UNITY/McCormick Foundation Electronic Clearinghouse for News Diversity Research contains more than 400 references to books, articles and reports that relate to diversity in journalism, provided in an easily searchable online database.

UNITY President Karen Lincoln Michel said the clearinghouse is as an important step in making certain that information about news diversity is readily available to a wide audience.

“Until now, information about news diversity has been scattered and easily overlooked,” Michel said. “This clearinghouse, with its critical data and important lessons, will help us make better decisions as an industry. We aren’t going to be able to say: ‘We didn’t know’.”

The project was created for UNITY by researchers at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University with a generous grant from the McCormick Foundation of Chicago, a national leader in news diversity issues.

“We wanted to put this important information in the hands of news leaders who make policy decisions in newsrooms,” said project leader Stephen Doig, the Knight Chair in Journalism at the Cronkite School.

Doig, a national expert in computer-assisted reporting, said the database covers a wide range of topics about diversity, including newsroom staffing, news sources, journalism education and portrayals of minorities in the media. It references scholarly research, books, articles, professional reviews and journalism organization and foundation reports. While academic research is included, all abstracts are written in easy-to-understand language for the non-scholar.

Covering more than 60 years of research, the clearinghouse includes abstracts of everything from the 1947 report by the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press to a new book about the growth of the African-American press in the United States.

Doig said he and two student researchers used a database search engine to identify relevant materials then individually scoured hundreds of books, reports and articles to come up with a database that focuses specifically on diversity as practiced in newsrooms and as produced by news outlets.

 “Much research has been done on diversity in movies or television, for example, but we didn’t include it unless it was really targeted to journalism,” Doig said.

The resulting database can be browsed, sorted, filtered and searched. The clearinghouse is available at http://cronkite.asu.edu/unity.

The project was unveiled during UNITY’s annual convention along with a census of diversity in the Washington press corp, also conducted by the Cronkite School in partnership with UNITY and the McCormick Foundation.

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 advances the ideals of a free, democratic society.

UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. 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.

The Cronkite School, a nationally recognized professional journalism program with 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students, is home to the Carnegie-Knight News21 News Initiative, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, the New Media Innovation Lab and the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute.