Report: Few Non-White Editors At Top U.S. News Outlets

There are only two non-White top editors in the 20 major online and legacy news outlets in the U.S., according to a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford.

The report, “Race and Leadership in the News Media,” includes data from 100 news outlets in five different markets: 10 online and 10 offline (TV, print, radio) of the most widely used news organizations in each market.



The five markets in the report are Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Overall, 18% of the 88 top editors across the 100 brands covered are people of color. On average, 41% of the population across all five countries is non-White. 

In Brazil, which has a majority non-White population, there was only one non-White editor in the sample. In Germany and the U.K., both home to millions of people of color, none of the outlets in Reuters’ sample have a non-White top editor.

In the U.S., the percentage of non-White journalists (9%) is about the same as the percentage of non-White top editors in Reuters’ sample (11%). However, both numbers are far below the percentage of non-Whites in the general population.

“Top editorial positions in major news outlets matter both substantially and symbolically,” reads the report.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford has also conducted research on women and leadership in the news media.

“Top editors also represent their outlets and collectively, top editors help represent the news media more broadly. The diversity (or lack thereof) of top editors is thus symbolically important and likely to shape how news media are perceived by different parts of the public,” according to the report.

People of color made up about one-third of the journalistic profession from the early 1970s till the early 2000s, but that has since declined to about one-quarter.

“While the U.S. population has grown proportionally less white, U.S. journalism has grown disproportionately more white,” the report reads.

This could get worse with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The years following the financial crisis, for example, saw a sustained decline in the number of minority journalists in U.S. newsrooms as thousands were laid off in ways that further exacerbated racial inequalities… There is a real risk that the impact of the coronavirus crisis could have the same effect, even as some U.S. newsrooms are trying to increase diversity among their journalists and editors.”

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