Being a newspaper editor, I am always interested in new reports on how the media industry and journalism in general is faring in today's economy. I am used to reading headlines on the 'downfall' of newspapers and thinking the reports of our death "have been greatly exaggerated," in the words of Mark Twain. But I was a little taken aback by a recently released survey from Indiana University that found journalists are generally angry, white, old men.
In their survey of more than 1,000 journalists, professors Lars Willnat and David Weaver found less than one-fourth of the respondents said that journalism in the United States was headed in the right direction, compared to more than twice that number who saw journalism going in the wrong direction.
Now, I can understand why journalists who have witnessed scores of their colleagues being laid off over the past few years would have that outlook, but here at the Turlock Journal, we've actually increased our newsroom and production team. We've also added a third print publication day, rolled out a web video series called Studio209, and 209 Magazine — all within the past 12 months. The general feeling of the newsroom is enthusiasm about all the new things we're doing.
The survey also found the number of full-time minority journalists working for the U.S. news media has decreased slightly to 8.5 percent over the past decade, while the median age of journalists has increased to 47.
Those are somewhat depressing statistics, but also things that don't really apply to the Journal. The Journal newsroom has been very diverse over the past eight years, and is definitely NOT made up of white, older men. In fact, most of newly hired reporters here at the Journal are fresh out of college with their degrees in hand and enthusiastic about community journalism.
The report actually found an increase in the number of female U.S. journalists, from 33 percent in 2002 to 37.5 percent in 2013, however, women are still only slightly more than one-third of all full-time journalists working for U.S. news media — something that has been true since the early 1980s, and despite the fact that more women than ever are graduating from journalism schools.
Here again, the Journal is not the norm. I am a female journalist, and editor of the paper, and there are three full-time female reporters on staff.
The report also found some encouraging trends: Journalists once again consider the role of "government watchdog" as one of the most important functions of the U.S. news media; and a majority of journalists said that "analyzing complex problems" in society is extremely important. It's good to know that U.S. journalists understand the importance of their jobs and media's role in society.
Indiana University has conducted this survey of more than 1,000 journalists every decade since 1971, so it measures changes in the industry. I'm glad such a survey exists, but I'm also happy to report that most of its discouraging findings do not describe the Turlock Journal.
Sometimes it's good to be a statistical outlier.