USAT: Nearly half this year’s hires were minorities

(Updated.) The company’s flagship newspaper disclosed that figure as one of the most powerful minority journalism trade groups challenged Gannett to “review its diversity numbers,” once this week’s 2,000 newspaper job cuts are complete.

“We’ve actually been able to step up our commitment to diversity,” Brent Jones, USA Today‘s standards and recruitment editor, told the Maynard Institute’s Journal-isms blog. “We’ve had great success in recruiting in 2008, particularly at Unity. In fact, 48% of our hires this year were journalists of color.”

The Maynard Institute promotes diversity in media. Jones told blog author Richard Prince that, of 12 USA Today newsroom jobs cut this week, “two — or 16% of the cuts — were of minority journalists. That included one African American and one Asian American.” He did not identify them by name, Prince said.

Jones provided the figures as the National Association of Black Journalists issued its high-profile challenge Friday to the newspaper industry, Prince told me this afternoon. (When I first read his post, I thought Prince had called Jones after the NABJ issued its statement.)

NABJ singled out just one publisher: Gannett. The group, which claims 3,300 members, is the largest of four minority journalism professional associations. The other three are the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.

Gannett, the nation’s No. 1 newspaper publisher, has been a major financial backer of the four groups through direct grants from its charitable arm, the Gannett Foundation.

Did USAT newsroom avoid layoffs?
In what I believe is the paper’s first official acknowledgement of how it reduced its workforce, Prince quotes Jones as saying in an e-mail: “A total of 12 journalists were laid off, including four voluntary layoffs.” Previously, USA Today had said it would cut 20 occupied jobs from its 450-person newsroom, because of Corporate pressure.

Jones’ statement suggests the paper avoided eight forced cuts. But he may only be counting reporters and editors as “journalists.” I know of at least one newsroom layoff involving a bureau office manager who didn’t produce content for the paper or website.

Whatever last week’s newsroom tally, USAT has yet to disclose the total number of jobs it cut across the paper amid Gannett’s nationwide 10% newspaper workforce reduction. USA Today employs between 1,500 and 2,000, making it one of the company’s three biggest worksites. The other two are The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, and the Detroit Free Press and its business affiliates.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: Thursday’s USAT front page; I would have illustrated this post with Friday’s paper, but that edition isn’t in the Newseum‘s database]


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