Tony Cox, who spent 31 years as a reporter and anchor in Los Angeles, thought he had found a comfortable second career when the president of a college in Southern California asked him out to lunch.
Tired of the daily grind in the newsroom, Cox wanted to go next into teaching broadcast journalism – preferably at an urban university with a large number of Hispanics and African-Americans.
“I had lunch with the president of a local college here, a brother whom I had known,” Cox said. “He was going on and on about how perfect I would be for a university: I was an African-American, a male on top of that. I had significant experience in a big market and nationally. I had a master’s degree from UCLA, a respected institution nationwide and had been on the board of the National Association of Black Journalists. I was feeling good and ready to enter the classroom.”
The president, though, was leaving his post soon. He gave Cox the telephone number of his successor.
“He made it seem like: No problem. Just call.”
Cox called. He called again. His calls weren’t returned. Finally, he picked up an application and sent it in. “I was devastated when I was turned down. The explanation was that my master’s degree wasn’t in journalism. It was in theater,” Cox said.
He didn’t give up, though. He sought out two more Southern California colleges and, in August, he will begin work as an assistant professor in the broadcast journalism program at California State University-Los Angeles.
Cox is one of the lucky few, based on reports about minority faculty and interviews with several of them. Only 15 percent of professors teaching in journalism and mass communication programs are minorities, according to a 2001 report by the University of Georgia’s journalism school.
While that beats the percentage for the newspaper industry (11.6 percent), it is off the mark when judged by several other key indicators: 24.6 percent of television news personnel are minorities, according to the latest survey by the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) and Ball State University; about 25 percent of U.S. residents are minorities, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau reports; and, perhaps the most comparable figure, about 27 percent of students in journalism and mass communication programs are minorities.
Further, no systematic plan exists to recruit minority teachers for all of roughly 400 journalism and mass communication programs in the U.S. College journalism professors are recruited the old-fashioned way: They learn of an opening – either through word-of-mouth or a job announcement – and apply. They attend the annual convention of the leading professional group, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), and hope to get an interview.
That’s different from the recruiting methods used by the newspaper and broadcast news industries. In the larger news outlets, a senior editor or producer is responsible for recruiting talent and often attends several job fairs throughout the year. There are several journalism job sites available on the World Wide Web.
Further, the news industry announces each year how well it is doing, or not doing, in increasing the number of minorities in newsrooms. For newspapers, the American Society of Newspaper Editors asks all daily newspapers to report its percentage of minority employees and then makes the newspaper’s accounting available online. In contrast, the major report on faculty diversity is updated every three years, and the number of minorities at each institution is not displayed. The last update, in 2001, provided a 10-year analysis that covered from 1989-1998.
That report, directed by Georgia journalism professor Lee Becker, painted a bleak picture: If hiring continues at its current rate, it will be 2035 before the percentage of journalism school teachers in journalism equals the percentage of minority students in the field. Maybe.
“The target is moving, however, and by 2035, the percentage of students who are members of racial and ethnic minorities is likely to be much higher than it is today,” says the executive summary of the report (www.grady.uga.edu/annualsurveys/facultydiversity/knightsummary.htm).
Said Federico Subervi-Velez, the former chair of AEJMC’s Commission on the Status of Minorities: “That’s a really long time from now, isn’t it?”
Many agree with the Georgia report, which is presented at AEJMC conventions and paid for by the James L. and John S. Knight Foundation, about the principal reasons why so few minority faculty teach at journalism programs:
Doctoral programs and the journalism industry, the two natural “pipelines” to faculty jobs, aren’t producing enough job candidates. About 40 minorities per year get their Ph.D.’s from journalism programs. The Georgia report says 85 minorities need to get that degree “just to keep pace’’ – meaning to try to catch up with the number of undergraduate minority students being produced by journalism programs and with faculty turnover. About 500 faculty, or 10 percent of the 5,000 faculty members in journalism and mass communication program, are hired each year.
The news industry isn’t eager to send minorities to colleges. It already is bemoaning the problems of retaining minorities, and last year the percentage of minorities working at newspapers went down, not up.
Subervi-Velez said that it’s folly to focus just on the percentage of minority faculty. The better idea, he said, is to make sure issues of diversity are part of a potential professor’s training.
“I doubt we can recruit enough minority faculty fast enough,’’ said Subervi-Velez, who is leaving the television news faculty at the University of Texas to become chair of a newly created media studies department at Pace University in New York City. “What we have to do is enhance the teaching of diversity issues in graduate schools so that a scholar who is not a minority is trained in issues that affect minorities.”
A curriculum that teaches diversity in mass media is among the solutions called for in the University of Georgia report, but other minority faculty say journalism programs are going to have to pay more to get more minorities.
E-K Daufin, who teaches at historically black Alabama State University, wrote an article in the spring 2001 issue of Journalism and Mass Communication Educator that called for more money for minorities.
“Minority faculty provides extra services so they deserve extra money,’’ she said in an interview in June.
The extra services? “Very often, there is one minority on the faculty and they serve on every department committee that needs a diverse presence. Plus, they’re overloaded with additional tasks of recruiting and mentoring minority students.”
Daufin, who has taught at predominantly black and predominantly white colleges, has a doctorate from Ohio State University and experience as a magazine and newspaper writer. Recently, she’s been on interviews for jobs at predominantly white universities. At one in Atlanta, she was told the salary was $40,000.
“I tried to negotiate for more, and they didn’t have it to give,’’ said Daufin, who is tenured and has the highest rank possible in academia – full professor.
At a university in West Virginia, her interviewers said she should command a higher salary because of her experience. “But they told me the senior people already there would complain about it.”
Daufin and others fear that good prospects – those with doctorates or advanced degrees and professional experience – shy away from joining faculties because of a cold, hostile reception.
That’s what three minority faculty members at Iowa State University recently experienced, according to news reports. They quit this summer after senior journalism faculty complained that the new minority faculty members, all of whom had junior rank, were enticed to come to the Midwestern university with offers of extra assistance with their research, The Des Moines Register reported. The minority faculty members, feeling uneasy about the climate in the journalism school, resigned and went elsewhere.
“Individuals who make the claim that they are being discriminated against to favor minorities I think simply do not understand the constraints that are put in a minority’s way,” Rollin Richmond, the school’s provost, told The Register.
Faculty diversity is a critical issue for journalism programs. It is one of the 12 standards by which accredited programs are judged when they initially apply for accreditation and when they come up for review every six years. Schools can be threatened with losing accreditation if they do a poor job in this area. The diversity standard of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) says in part that programs must have written diversity goals “and they must demonstrate specific results achieved toward accomplishing those goals.”
The University of Southern California was under such a threat when Loren Ghiglione, a former top newspaper editor with a reputation for diversifying newspaper staffs in heavily white towns, took over the journalism program in 1999. Ghiglione is now dean of the journalism school at Northwestern.
In a September 2000 article for the American Society of Newspaper Editors magazine, Ghiglione outlined how he turned the program’s diversity efforts around. He hired five minorities onto a faculty that had been all white.
“Travel almost everywhere – New York, New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis – to interview a candidate of color, but remember not to overlook excellent candidates close to home,’’ Ghiglione advised.
That’s exactly what happened when the University of Nebraska hired Trina Creighton, who had been a reporter for 20 years, most recently at KMTV-TV in Omaha, a 45-minute commute from the Lincoln campus.
“The department chair called me and pursued me,’’ Creighton said in an interview. “Teaching at the college level was something I said I always wanted to do, so I jumped at the opportunity.”
Creighton said she was what the university called an “opportunity hire.” She didn’t have an advanced degree, but she had been a schoolteacher for five years before becoming a television reporter.
“It has worked out well,” said Creighton, who also is studying at Nebraska for a master’s degree in public administration. “But I can understand why it would be difficult to hire minorities.”
Minorities are heavily concentrated in urban cities on the two coasts, she said. But several good journalism programs are in university towns with small minority populations.
“I don’t mind being in an almost-all-white environment because I grew up in Iowa, went to college in Iowa and worked in Nebraska. I’m comfortable in that environment,” said Creighton, who is African-American.
More important, she said, is the issue of pay. Veterans at big newspapers and television stations easily make more than $50,000, but that would be a good starting, nine-month salary for a college professor hired at a junior-level rank. Colleges generally don’t guarantee that professors will be hired for the summer.
“I took a huge pay cut,” she said. “But I find this work rewarding. I think you would have to pay a minority $100,000 to come to many parts of the Midwest to teach. It’s too isolated from black culture.”
About 9 percent of journalism faculty are African-American – the largest percentage of minority faculty, the Georgia report says. But even though the Hispanic population has grown rapidly in the United States and now, at 12 percent, equals the black population, the Georgia report says 1.4 percent of faculty in journalism programs are Hispanic. In other words, about one in every 100.
Ivan Roman, the Puerto Rico correspondent for the Tribune Co. newspapers in Florida, said he noticed when he was a director of a diversity program at San Francisco State University the ethnic imbalance of journalism faculties.
“I went to an AEJMC convention and it just struck me: Almost everyone here is white,” said Roman, who said his old university’s faculty aggressively recruited minorities. “It means they have a lot of work to do in that area.”
Roman said he doubts faculties will become more diverse unless universities drop the insistence that teachers have doctorates. In 1999, half of those teaching in journalism programs had a doctorate, the Georgia report said. More important, 75 percent of those who were hired for the first time had a doctorate – suggesting that programs are more and more considering it a requirement.
“I understand why people teaching the theory-based courses should have a Ph.D.,’’ said Roman, a director with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “But the people in the writing courses should be selected based on their experience in the field.”
Roman said he realizes that good journalists are not necessarily good teachers. But, at the same time, few programs exist to help turn good journalists into potentially good teachers. They have to do it on their own, spending their own money to get a graduate education and spending their free time teaching part time to get experience in the classroom.
“Most of the minorities I know,” said Roman, a journalist for about 20 years, “get a bachelor’s degree and then they have to start working right away. There’s no money, no extra support from family, to support us for another several years in graduate school. Even after we have been working in the business for a while, I don’t know too many people of color who can just stop, put their bills on hold, and then study full time for a doctorate for the next four years. It’s unrealistic.”
Lee Becker of Georgia said his next report, to the AEJMC convention this August in Miami Beach, will delve deeper into the statistics of minorities in doctoral programs. Becker said in June that he wasn’t prepared to talk about that study’s findings. His 2001 report noted that doctoral programs produce 40 a year when 85 are needed.
Asked if a systematic plan to recruit minorities was needed, Becker said: “That’s one of the things that needs to be addressed.”
But his report said there are universities that are doing a good job. Like Ghiglione’s experience at USC, it depends on a leader with good ideas and the willingness to carry them through. His research team visited three large universities, all of them in the South with heavily white populations, and found that the word to diversify came from the dean.
Initially, Becker’s research team was surprised that there weren’t more minority faculty working at accredited programs. About one-fourth of the journalism and mass communication programs in the United States meets the strict accrediting standards. Since a lack of faculty diversity – or the lack of an effective plan to diversify – could doom a school’s accreditation, the research team assumed accredited programs were hiring minorities at a brisker pace. But Becker said his 2001 report showed that the pace of minority hiring was the same at programs that were not accredited as at the accredited ones.
“We looked into those figures a little deeper,’’ Becker said. “They don’t mean that it didn’t make a difference whether a program was accredited or not with respect to its minority hiring. When we looked deeper, the explanation was that accredited programs started out with more minorities than those that were not accredited.”
Becker’s team will be doing another report soon, he said, that will update the minority hiring situation.
Cox, meanwhile, who also was talking to an accredited program about a full-time teaching job, ended up at one that is not. He has been asked to beef up Cal State-Los Angeles’ broadcast journalism facilities, and he’s thinking about attending the AEJMC convention in Miami Beach to learn more about his new profession. He thinks more veteran minority journalists should seek out teaching jobs, but not just because of their race.
“I’m not going into this just with the mindset I’m only going to help black students,’’ Cox said. “My background is broader than that, and I don’t think that’s why I was hired anyway. I’m doing this because with my background in news and sports, I can give students something of immediate value.”
Mike McQueen is chair of the Department of Journalism and Broadcasting at Florida International University.