Africa: 'Killer Business Case' for Diversity in Newsrooms

Diversity is necessary for media companies' business, from building credibility to finding stories, top editors said on Thursday.

LONDON - As media companies around the world struggle to stay afloat, ensuring more diversity among journalists and interviewees is necessary for newsrooms' survival, top editors said on Thursday.

The business case for diversity is clear, whether in building credibility by representing society or finding stories that interest and engage readers, panelists told the Thomson Reuters Foundation's annual Trust Conference.

"From a financial standpoint, there are so many different advertisers who want to reach different segments of our population," said Danielle Belton, who in April became editor in chief of U.S. online news company HuffPost.

"If we're not making the effort to actually reach those individuals, we're basically just saying we don't want them."

Black Lives Matter protests across the world last year at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many, often financially-struggling, newsrooms to question whether they reflected the communities they were covering.

With advertisers and audiences shifting to social media and tech platforms, many news organisations have been forced to cut costs and jobs.

The number of journalists in U.S. newsrooms fell 26% to 85,000 between 2008 and 2020, according to Pew Research Center, as media companies continue to grapple with developing sustainable digital business models.

In 2020, 73% of U.S. TV journalists and 85% of radio news staff were non-Hispanic white, compared to 63% of the overall population, according to a study by the Radio Television Digital News Association and Syracuse University.

Nina Goswami of the BBC cited the success of the British public broadcaster's 50:50 initiative, started by journalists to work towards ensuring half of all on-air guests and quoted sources were women.

"On our online platforms ... 44% of 16- to 34-year-olds are actually enjoying our content a lot more," said Goswami, the BBC's creative diversity lead.

"And the big killer business case is that 58% of women of that age group are consuming more BBC content."

In an analysis of the front pages of 11 major British newspapers during one week in 2020, advocacy group Women in Journalism found that only a quarter of the stories were written by women and none were by Black reporters.


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