Monday, April 12, 2010

We're not out of the woods yet

Ryan Sholin posted this picture of ASNE "swag" --
a copy of the San Francisco Panorama -- to
Twitpic. Tweets quote Panorama's Dave Eggers
as saying he's looking for money to take
the publication monthly.
Our long national nightmare in the newsroom continues.

Or so says the American Society of News Editors, the trade group for top newspaper and Web site editors.

According to ASNE, the rate of decline in newsroom jobs at daily newspapers slowed last year to 5,200 -- from 5,900 jobs lost in 2008.

But that still put the census of full-time staff -- reporters, editors, photographers, layout and graphic artists -- at its lowest level since the mid-1970s: 41,500.

And among minorities, the 2009 hit was bigger on a percentage basis than for the newsroom work force as a whole: 12.6 percent of jobs lost, vs. 11 percent overall, ASNE said in a report released yesterday.

The association, which keeps tabs on employment at daily newspapers in particular to track minority hiring, called the numbers disappointing. "Without diversity in our newsrooms, we miss reporting on important stories in our communities," ASNE President Marty Kaiser, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said in a prepared statement.

Indeed, the Asian American Journalists Association today called on ASNE "to make diversity a key pillar of the news industry's financial future," as it underscored a drop in Asian Americans in newsrooms. (This table in the ASNE report shows the minority census in newsrooms over the last decade. This table shows the minority breakdown by job category. And this one shows the trends since 1978.)

ASNE is holding its annual conference in Washington, D.C., through Wednesday. Live-blogging, tweeting and reporting on sessions can be found here.

While the 2009 conference was canceled -- only the second time in the group's history (World War II was the backdrop for the hiatus in 1945) -- this year's meeting was promoted as less navel-gazing and more about "what is working now and what isn’t."

One active tweeter, a journalism professor from Arizona, liked what he saw: "... speakers are showing phenomenal number of very specific examples. Good teaching." But one online account of the conference so far likened the editors attending to "patients in the dentists' waiting rooms: anxious."

That's an apt description to be sure, given that newsroom layoffs and buyouts merely slowed in 2009 from the hurried pace of a year earlier and haven't yet reversed.

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