Minorities are hard to find down at the Daily Bugle
OF course the racial discrimination that has kept blacks from managerial and executive positions in professional baseball is deplorable, as so many journalists have been telling us in recent weeks. But what of discrimination within their own profession? How concerned are journalists about that? Certainly they have every reason for great concern. Minorities now make up at least 25 percent of the population, yet only about 6 percent of the reporters and editors at the country's daily newspapers are black, Hispanic, or from some other minority group.
Nearly 60 percent of the papers don't have any minority reporters or editors at all, and even those that do rarely advance them to top-level management positions.
As bad as the situation is, it may worsen. A recent survey by the Institute for Journalism Education at the University of California showed that 40 percent of the few minority reporters and editors plan to leave journalism soon because they see no chance for promotion.
The institute and a few other organizations operate special training programs for minorities, but minorities make up only about 5 percent of those in the college journalism programs that are the primary access to news and editorial jobs.
How journalists in general feel about that situation is not clear. But it does seem clear that those key journalists who belong to The Newspaper Guild, which represents reporters, editors, and other employees at most major papers, are hardly concerned at all.
Racial discrimination, in any case, was at just about the very bottom of the list of problems cited by Guild members surveyed in a poll commissioned by Guild officials as a guide in organizing new members and trying to do a better job for current members.
At the top of the list were complaints that Guild dues were too high. They were voiced by 30 percent of the 1,100 union members polled randomly last fall by the Wilson Center for Public Research. Almost as many members complained about job stress related to the use of word processors and such matters as ``long hours, irregular schedules, deadline pressure, boredom'' and about ``poorly ventilated, poorly lit, dirty'' workplaces.
One-third of those questioned said their employers do not discriminate on the basis of race - ``not at all.'' Another 29 percent said their bosses discriminated ``not very much,'' 28 percent that they discriminated only ``somewhat.'' Five percent didn't even respond to the questions about discrimination.
That 84 percent of those polled were white might have something to do with the results. It's true, at least, that 28 percent of the black members polled said employers are guilty of ``very much'' discrimination, although less than 6 percent of members in general said that.
Those who did complain about discrimination said the Guild should do no more about it than engage in ``more vigorous'' use of the grievance procedures in the union's current contracts with employers.
But though that might provide more protection for currently employed minorities, it obviously would do nothing to provide jobs for other minority people.
The attempts of newspapers to explain the ghetto uprisings of the 1960s to their audience of largely white outsiders, the pressures of the civil rights movement and related factors led them to begin hiring minority reporters and editors two decades ago. But they've done relatively little minority hiring since then.
The sports sections that have carried so much of the commentary attacking racism in baseball are certainly no exception. Ron Thomas, a black sportswriter at the San Francisco Chronicle, reported recently, for instance, that ``in major cities, on sports staffs that range from 20 to 50 reporters and copy editors, the blacks often number none or one.''
``Despite the efforts of many news executives,'' says Ellis Close, director of the Institute for Journalism Education, ``we have not reached the point where creating diversity in newsrooms is given as much importance as hiring the person (typically a young white male) management believes will be the next journalistic star.
``To ensure a long-term health, the press needs the support and respect of its readers.... That can only come when readers feel the press really does reflect the public in all of its dimensions.''
Dick Meister has been a newspaper, wire service, radio, and television, reporter, editor, and commentator, journalism instructor, and Newspaper Guild activist over the past 30 years.