More on Saving ‘the News’

July 28, 2022

DID THE INDY STAR meet its diversity goal this year? Don’t be silly, it and other Gannet newspapers always meet their diversity goals — even if it means passing up the most qualified person.

Gasp if you will, but before you call WOKE 911 consider that the above statement is mathematical and not prejudicial. There simply are not yet enough experienced journalists of color to fill every vacancy, and the best of them would prefer to work on the coasts than in the wide spot in a corn field that is Indianapolis.

But there is another problem with the Star’s diversity program. First, though, let’s look at the numbers.

Yesterday, the newspaper shared a data snapshot of July 1, 2022, that included the racial makeup of its newsroom. Although total staff numbers were not given (the website lists 70), the percentages are impressive. The newsroom is 74.2 percent White, 12.4 percent Black, 6.7 percent Asian and 3.4 percent Hispanic, with 2.2 percent identifying as two or more races. (Oddly, a higher melanin count is not a goal in the executive suites, where the important factor is sex;they report a 50-50 split between men and women there.)

But to that larger problem, which, as they say on the street, is a matter ‘tude or attitude. What happens when we pair the Star’s diversity count with another type of racial survey.

The American National Election Studies (ANES) Time Series Study of 2020 (the most recent) is based on 15,720 pre- and post-election interviews. It finds among other things that certain races don’t like other races all that much.

Only White respondents rated other races as equal. Blacks, Asians and Hispanics rated their own race much, much, much higher. Whites were rated lowest by all.

Whether that holds for journalists is pure guesswork. But if it does, a troubling inference can be drawn to the Star’s energetic efforts to color code its newsroom. If almost 26 percent of the staff is a race other than White, and if the readership reflects national demographics, then a quarter of the newsroom has a low opinion of three-quarters of its readers.

Now, we put an emphasize here on the primacy of the individual in addressing problems. and there is no reason the Star couldn’t have a first-rate newsroom that just happens to match Indianapolis demographics. If that is the case, more power to them.

That, however, does not appear to be what is happening.

With recent staff additions of both an outspoken “Equity and Education” reporter and a racially activated “Public Engagement” editor, both of whom fit the ANES model, editor Bro Krift appears to have other ideas.
A casual review of news and opinion headlines would seem to bear out the ANES chart. There is at the least an extraordinary emphasis on the concerns of Blacks, often pushing aside — or tainting with guilt, supremacy or privilege — the concerns of Whites. The Star seems to be going full woke.

And if all that is so, and if we can assume that no more than half the White readers are social-justice wackos, there may be as many as 35,000 out of a weekday circulation of 94,000 left puzzled or even offended by the racially skewed coverage. How long will they stick with the paper? A friend quips that eventually Mr. Krift may be able to count subscribers on his fingers and toes.

Anyway, if that’s the marketing plan, the logic is difficult to grasp . . . but let’s try.

I am told that the large metro newspapers don’t care as much about readers as in my day. They look to make their profits not on retail advertising sales but in support from large institutions — hospitals, national corporations, digital ad placements, big banks, insurance companies, mega nonprofits, and the like. The Star has flirted with allowing such outside entity to underwrite newsroom salaries as well as with accepting various forms of government aid or favor.

In that market, wokeness may be the thing, the views of those 35,000 serious readers be damned.

Let us hope not. It was once a great newspaper.— tcl


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