Two years after protests brought a renewed focus on racial justice and equality, there may be a ripple effect on who is working in radio’s newsrooms. The annual RTDNA survey finds that the minority workforce in radio rose two percent from last year to 17.8%. That is the highest it has been in the 28 years the RTDNA has been conducting the survey with Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.
The overall number of minorities in radio news has moved up and down through the years. In 1990, the RTDNA said non-Whites made up 10.8% of the radio news workforce. That fell to 7.9% in 2000 and 5.09% in 2010. But during the past decade, minority representation has steadily grown.
“Of course, the big, long-term picture for minorities in local radio news shows an industry well behind an ever-increasing minority population in the U.S,” the report says, pointing out 39.9% of the population is non-White.
The 2022 survey finds that the gains were made in every segment except among African Americans. The RTDNA says the number of Black newsroom employees fell to 5.3%, compared to 6.7% a year ago. In other words, one in five Black newsroom staffers disappeared year-to-year. Instead, the gains were driven by Hispanics and Asian American employment levels. The survey finds 7.4% of radio’s news workforce is Hispanic. That is up 29% from a year ago. And Asian Americans make up four percent of the radio news staff, a 54% year-to-year increase.
The RTNDA says there is also a racial gap between commercial and noncommercial radio. It says one in four (24.6%) public radio newsroom staffers are minorities, compared to roughly one in ten (7.9%) in commercial radio newsrooms.
Minorities are also making gains in management numbers, albeit slowly. The RTDNA says the percentage of radio news directors of color went up more than two and a half points this year to 9.9%. Hispanics had the biggest minority share at 4.4% followed by African Americans at 3.5% and Asian Americans at 1.5%. As usual, the South had the highest percentage of minority news directors, while the Northeast lagged behind all other areas.
The RTDNA also reports that the percentage of news staffs with minorities rose five points in the last year with every market size going up. As a percentage of the workforce, minorities rose two percent from a year ago. But while the percentage of minorities at noncommercial stations rose by nearly three percent year-to-year, the percentage at commercial stations fell by 0.4%. The report says the bottom line is that if it weren’t for noncommercial stations, American radio news would be primarily White.
The annual survey also looks at gender and there it sees small gains. The RTDNA says men have historically outnumbered women by about 50%. That trend continued this year with 60.5% of newsroom staff made up of men, compared to 39.5% women – the same gender split as a year ago.
The number of newsrooms led by women also shrank during the past year. Women lead roughly one in four radio newsrooms (24.3%). That is down a point from last year. The survey finds there were more female news directors in major and large markets, while their ranks shrank in medium and small markets. Women have traditionally made bigger strides at noncommercial radio outlets and there is also a more than 20-point gap between public stations and commercial radio. Geographically, female news directors are most likely to be found in the West and then the Northeast.
Overall, 39.5% of news rooms said they had a female employee. That’s the same as last year with bigger markets and bigger newsrooms most likely to have a woman on the staff.
For the first time, the RTDNA survey asked about LGBTQ+ employees. It says that 15% of newsrooms said they had someone from that community on their staff. Major markets and noncommercial radio led the way, as did stations in the Northeast and on the West Coast.
The RTDNA/Newhouse School survey was conducted among a random sample of 3,379 radio stations. Valid responses came from 765 radio news directors and general managers representing 2,310 radio stations. Download the full report HERE.