BuzzFeed News’ staff is generally becoming more representative of the communities it aims to cover and the audiences it tries to reach, according to statistics shared with the newsroom on Wednesday and obtained by Splinter. But the proportion of the site’s journalists who identify as being of Hispanic descent has stagnated, showcasing major media organizations’ ongoing struggle to sustain diversity efforts.
News outlets that report on their gender and racial disparities don’t typically scrutinize their own shortcomings on this front. While third-party monitors attempt to track these statistics at newspapers and TV stations, the data is incomplete. The poorly kept secret is that the organizations that produce your news are overwhelmingly white in general, dominated by white men in particular. And the numbers aren’t getting all that much better over time.
But some of the largest digital media companies, including Vox Media and Gizmodo Media Group, have started making their staffs’ breakdown by gender or racial identity public. BuzzFeed News, whose newsroom has grown from 170 to 300 staffers in the past two years, has published these statistics since 2014.
“As I said then, the news business has traditionally done a terrible job at including people from different backgrounds, genders, regions, races, and ethnicities,” BuzzFeed News Editor in Chief Ben Smith wrote in a memo to staff on Wednesday, as several of his employees traveled to the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual conference in New Orleans. “And we’re trying to do better not just for reasons of equity or a healthy newsroom culture—both important—but because diversity is obviously an asset in the core business of getting and telling killer stories from diverse sources to a diverse audience.”
Some snapshots of BuzzFeed News, according to Smith and a company spokeswoman:
- Sixty-one percent of the newsroom identifies as white, down from 69 percent two years ago. New hires who identify as black or Asian have driven this change.
- Sixty percent of staffers are women, up from 50 percent in 2015.
- Racial/ethnic minority representation is as follows: 12 percent of BuzzFeed News journalists identify as Asian; 9.5 percent identify as black; 6.5 percent identify as two or more races; and 5.5 percent identify as Hispanic.
“While our number of Hispanic employees has grown, as a percentage that group has stayed flat,” Smith wrote. “We need to do better on this front, especially in leadership roles.”
At Gizmodo Media Group, a report released in May showed that the company’s editorial staff—roughly 180 strong at the time—was about as diverse as that of BuzzFeed News: 48 percent identified as white; 11 percent black; 10 percent Asian; 9 percent Hispanic; and 16 percent “unspecified.” The gender breakdown was roughly balanced between men and women, though in recent months the company has watched a trio of top-level female employees depart: GMG President Heather Dietrich, GMG Executive Managing Editor Katie Drummond, and Jezebel Editor in Chief Emma Carmichael.
The editorial staff at Vox Media, meanwhile, is stocked with more white and male employees across its eight sites, including SBNation, The Verge, and Recode, according to its own 2017 report. In making those numbers public, the company claimed that “we continue to make strides to diversify our teams.” The breakdown of its editorial staff is below:
At the very least, publishing such information gives you—the readers who reward these publications with your clicks and attention—the opportunity to hold them accountable to journalistic ideals of fairness, equity, and accurate portrayals of the world. It’s up to those in power, like Smith, to actually follow through.
“Diversity isn’t a side project,” he wrote in Wednesday’s memo. “It’s a key part of what we do, how we relate to our audience, how we report what is happening in the world, and how we set an example across the news business.”