The reason for the extension: only 234 out of nearly 1,700 newspapers and digital media outlets responded to the survey.
A statement from the group reads: "A healthy, diverse democracy requires a robust, free, and diverse Fourth Estate. The work of diversity is the work of journalism today. We believe the ASNE survey is a critical tool in creating a more responsive and representative public square, and we call on the industry to respond with the urgency this moment demands.”
The goal of the survey is to record the current percentage of people of color working in newsrooms with the intention of elevating that number to reflect the nation's population by the year 2025.
Outlets now have until October 12 to respond. Going forward the ASNE will require the survey’s completion for those receiving journalism grants from the organization.
The lack of interest in the survey displayed by the publishing world echoes recent comments from the former managing editor of Harper’s Magazine.
Commenting on the controversial pieces by Katie Roiphe and David Hockenberry published by Harper's this year, Hasan Altaf, who left the magazine last month to join The Paris Review, told The Huffington Post the staff was “sidelined and dismissed” as the stories were developed under publisher John MacArthur.
Roiphe’s piece was widely maligned as being out of touch as she decried the state of “Twitter feminism,” revealing in the process she understands very little about feminism in 2018. Hockenberry’s piece was a sprawling 7,000 word essay exploring his attempt to find a road to redemption — after being outed as a serial sexual harasser at NPR.
Former Harper’s editor James Marcus made a similar statement about the Roiphe piece in The New York Times, following his firing for taking a “principled stand” against the story.
In a counter statement to The Huffington Post, Giulia Melucci, Harper's vice president of communications, who contacted Roiphe to write the piece, said: “You’re telling me that Hasan told you that the staff was against the story, so there you go. I can’t confirm Hasan’s feelings. I don’t know what Hasan felt. We don’t run like North Korean publications, so people have different opinions here about stories, and we allow them to be free with their feelings. But we also believe in free speech, so we publish things that are controversial. That’s the statement.”
The New York Review of Books found itself in similar territory just this month when it published a piece from Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian radio broadcaster accused of sexually assaulting women. He was later acquitted of charges. The essay recounted his experience following the accusations, downplaying the experiences of his accusers.
NYRB’s editor Ian Buruma found himself in the midst of controversy following the piece’s publication. He gave an interview showing little regard for the accusations against Ghomeshi. Buruma was fired last week.
The unwillingness or inability to consider how pieces like these provide a platform to harassers only works to normalize the behavior. Publishing a tone-deaf piece splintered a staff’s trust in its management — and reveals the lack of diverse experiences among those at the top.
With data culled from the Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey, the industry would know who is dictating what enters the news cycle and how it might pursue a future that includes people from many backgrounds. Different voices can enrich, as well as inform the editorial process through lived experience.
The ASNE statement continued: “As foundations committed to furthering diversity, equity and inclusion in journalism, we stand together today to call on newsroom leaders to take seriously the work of building newsrooms that truly represent the diversity of our nation.”
There are a couple of flaws about this story and its assumptions. I've conducted dozens of surveys over the years on behalf of my companies and clients, and 234 responses out of 1,700 really isn't a bad rate. Sure, you'd like everybody to respond but that's not realistic in the world of surveys. Secondly, the Society may have poisoned the well by clearly stating a bias toward its preferred response. When it states, "The work of diversity is the work of journalism today," recipients are put on notice that they better come up with the "correct" responses. If their staffs don't measure up to what the Society thinks is optimal, why bother to respond?