06/15/2012 01:29 am ET Updated Jun 15, 2012

NABJ Taking Steps To Increase Newsroom Diversity

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The career fair is one of the biggest attractions of the NABJ Convention, but the downturn of the economy seriously impacted employment prospects for black journalists.

As a result, NABJ President Kathy Times has spent her term fighting to keep black journalists employed.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that 1/3 of the black journalists in newsrooms in 2001 are not there anymore,” Times said.

Times met with industry leaders but said her focus is to make sure that black journalists are trained for the change in the industry.

“We could sit here all day and talk about the job loss,” she said. “But that’s not what this convention is about.”

NABJ is not ignoring the numbers. Bob Butler, NABJ vice president of broadcast, helped to conduct a census of the diversity in newsrooms around the country.

“I don’t think there is a question when it comes to diversity overall in the media industry,” Butler said. “Three thousand black journalists have lost their jobs in the last couple of years because of the economy. That’s not just TV. That’s radio, newspapers, magazines, overall.”

Some companies like NBC have kept diversity in the forefront.

“Every year that we’ve done this report, NBC came out on top,” Butler said.

CBS, Gannett and a number of other media organizations have also made strides to ensure diversity matters.

“You have to have a wide spectrum of ideas,” NBC Universal Vice President of Diversity Ethan “Tony” Loney said. “You have to have individuals who sort of get it from different walks of life.”

Many black journalists are not waiting for the industry to come to them.
“With the change in the media, I think it will be important to make your own way,” freelance journalist Sharea Carey said.

Carey started her own company a few years ago and now writes books and articles for publications all over the country.

Some journalists at the conference have started their own production companies, blogs and media publications. The NABJ convention provides training and guidance for journalists looking to create their own businesses.