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Race and the Newsroom

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Race and the Newsroom

What Seven Research Studies Say


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Seven studies of race in the newsroom challenge the very idea of objective journalism – whose objectivity?

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As racism tears at the social fabric, journalists are examining their own biases in the newsroom and attempting to find cures. Reporting for NiemanLab, writer Clark Merrefield examines seven research studies focusing on race and the newsroom. Each research project posits a different question, but the answers apply across the board, from visually reflecting a community to leaning into its needs before problems arise. These studies reveal ways the media could address internal bias and challenge the very idea of objectivity in journalism – whose objectivity?


Seven research studies focusing on race and the newsroom find that in this era of Civil Rights protests, journalists are calling out their own newsrooms for overt and covert racism. 

Although the American Society of News Editors set a goal in 1978 of achieving minority employment by the year 2000 that reflects community demographics, newsrooms have fallen short.

These seven peer-reviewed research studies find that journalistic “objectivity” has been largely a construct of the mainstream, majority media as the Black media followed its own path. Even in local newsrooms, Black women chose an approach labeled as “active objectivity” that others did not pursue. The problem is not simple; the path to diversity looks different for each newsroom. From a diverse media universe, a clear message emerges: “Journalism has a race problem.”

Non-Hispanic Caucasians dominate US newsroom staffing.

As a backdrop for the results of these seven studies, consider this 2018 data analysis offered by the Pew Research Center:

  • Non-Hispanic whites make up about 75% of the employees in US newsrooms, but only two-thirds of the...

About the Author

Writer Clark Merrefield covers economics and inequality for Journalist’s Resource. Previously, he was a reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He reviewed seven studies:

  1. “Racialization of news: Constructing and challenging professional journalism as ‘white media’,” Humanity & Society, December 2018.
  2. “Repeating history: Has the media changed since the Kerner Commission?” Race, Gender & Class, January 2018.
  3. “The role of minority journalists, candidates and audiences in shaping race-related news coverage,” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, May 2018.
  4. “When white reporters cover race: News media, objectivity and community (dis)trust,” Journalism, August 2016. 
  5. “Challenging assumptions about ownership and diversity: An examination of US local on-air television newsroom personnel,” International Journal on Media Management, January 2019.
  6. “African American women in the newsroom: Encoding resistance,” Howard Journal of Communication, July 2015.
  7. “Revising legacy media practices to serve hyper-local information needs of marginalized populations,” Journalism Practice, May 2020.

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