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Media diversity – Newsrooms still mainly white

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Three major journalism organizations are launching new programs to increase the percentage of minority journalists in the U.S. newsrooms.

The Freedom Forum, a foundation devoted to a free press, will spend $5 million this year on a number of minority recruitment programs.

Those programs include a $1 million partnership with the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press Managing Editors.

The Newspaper Editors Society also plans to use a $500,000 grant from the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to develop a program to encourage interest in journalism among high school students.

The initiatives are responses to the release by the Newspaper Editors Society of its annual newsroom survey, which showed there has been little progress in the recruitment of minority journalists.

The number of minority journalists working at daily newspapers grew in the past year by one third of one percent, to 11.9 percent, the survey says.

Minorities make up more than 28 percent of the U.S. population.

The survey also says the percentage of blacks working as journalists at daily papers fell slightly.

“What has been going on has not worked,” said Charles L. Overby, chair and CEO of the Freedom Forum.

“We have got to look for and embrace radically new ideas…because the traditional approaches have not worked.”

Allen Neuharth, founder of the Freedom Forum, said increasing newsroom diversity will cost more than $5 million.

“This is a wonderful beginning but it’s only a beginning,” he said.

In addition to its partnerships with ASNE and APME, the Freedom Forum plans to:

* Build a journalism education and training center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. The center will seek minority students from community colleges, schools without journalism programs and people interested in switching careers.  The center is expected to begin operating late next year.

* Seek other partners for programs to boost the number of minority newspaper journalists.

* Fund four “diversity fellows” who will travel to colleges, junior colleges and universities with high minority enrollments to recruit talented students for careers in print journalism.

* Expand its year-round program that provides paid internships and scholarships to minority college students pursuing journalism careers.

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