SAAHJ’s open letter to the Hearst Corporation demanding more diversity in its newsrooms

An open letter to the Hearst Corporation:

You may have seen that the American Society of News Editors, in partnership with the Google News Lab, recently released survey results of the race and gender makeup of newsrooms across the country. As a journalism group that has dedicated itself to Latino representation in the media for more than 30 years, the results are of much interest to us.

We commend the Hearst newspapers, including our local newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, that responded to the survey – not all Hearst newspapers did.

However, the 2019 survey’s findings are extremely troubling. It is clear there is a profound lack of diversity in Hearst’s newspapers. For example, at the San Antonio Express-News only 28 percent of the newsroom was Hispanic in a city that’s 63 percent Hispanic. And while 66 percent of its staff was white, the city’s population is 26 percent white. The leadership numbers are better, but still don’t reflect the community.

This is a shame. If we journalists are to call our profession a public service, we must have workplaces that reflect the public we serve – all of it. The demographic makeup of newsrooms affects which stories are covered and how they are told. Studies show a diverse newsroom leads to a wider range of stories that are relevant to a broader number of populations. To attract more subscribers, Hearst papers must produce stories relevant to these under-covered communities.

Every Hearst newspaper should be reexamining its current practices and working to change the status quo with support and direction from the highest levels of management.

Hearst papers should form diversity committees that participate in the hiring process and engage staff and management in open dialogue throughout the year.

Hearst newspapers should be required to respond to the annual ASNE diversity survey and host yearly meetings updating all staff on what management is doing to improve diversity numbers.

Its leadership needs to recruit, hire and retain more people of color, women and other underrepresented communities. They must establish a pipeline to bring on more journalists from their own communities and create inclusive workplace environments for a diverse group of employees.

For too long, journalists have covered diversity and its lack thereof in city government, businesses and schools – without turning the mirror on themselves. They write about how policies affect historically marginalized communities — and yet the papers don’t have those voices on their staff. 

Hearst needs strong, committed leadership to effect systemic change in its newsrooms, so diversity is not only represented but encouraged to flourish.

There is a brighter future ahead, one with robust representation in our newsrooms and diverse storytelling for our readers. Hearst should lead the industry into that future.

This letter is not a temporary lamentation on Hearst newsrooms’ state of affairs. The lack of representation in its newsrooms is an emergency that should be sounding alarms throughout the Hearst ranks. This letter is an urgent call to action.

We await your response.

Sincerely,

San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists