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News diversity database launched


July 28, 2008

A digital clearinghouse for news diversity research was unveiled recently at UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc.’s national convention in Chicago.

The UNITY/McCormick Foundation Electronic Clearinghouse for News Diversity Research contains more than 400 references to books, articles and reports that relate to diversity in journalism, provided in an easily searchable online database.

UNITY President Karen Lincoln Michel said the clearinghouse is an important step in making certain that information about news diversity is readily available to a wide audience.

“Until now, information about news diversity has been scattered and easily overlooked,” Michel said. “This clearinghouse, with its critical data and important lessons, will help us make better decisions as an industry. We aren’t going to be able to say: ‘We didn’t know’.”

The project was created for UNITY by researchers at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University with a generous grant from the McCormick Foundation of Chicago, a national leader in news diversity issues.

“We wanted to put this important information in the hands of news leaders who make policy decisions in newsrooms,” said project leader Stephen Doig, the Knight Chair in Journalism at the Cronkite School.

Doig, a national expert in computer-assisted reporting, said the database covers a wide range of topics about diversity, including newsroom staffing, news sources, journalism education and portrayals of minorities in the media. It references scholarly research, books, articles, professional reviews and journalism organization and foundation reports. While academic research is included, all abstracts are written in easy-to-understand language for the non-scholar.

Covering more than 60 years of research, the clearinghouse includes abstracts of everything from the 1947 report by the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press to a new book about the growth of the African-American press in the United States.

Doig said he and two student researchers used a database search engine to identify relevant materials then individually scoured hundreds of books, reports and articles to come up with a database that focuses specifically on diversity as practiced in newsrooms and as produced by news outlets.

“Much research has been done on diversity in movies or television, for example, but we didn’t include it unless it was really targeted to journalism,” Doig said.

The resulting database can be browsed, sorted, filtered and searched. The clearinghouse is available at http://cronkite.asu.edu/unity.

The project was unveiled during UNITY’s annual convention along with a census of diversity in the Washington press corp, also conducted by the Cronkite School in partnership with UNITY and the McCormick Foundation.