A recent Pew Research Center study found that just 6% of reporting journalists were Black in a sample of nearly 12,000 journalists.
When taking a closer look at who’s reporting on which topics, Black journalists make up between 2% to 8% of almost all reporting beats, including the environment, sports, politics and health. The exception is coverage of social issues and policy, where Black journalists represent 15% of journalists on the beat.
Arionne Nettles, lecturer and director of audio journalism programming at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, said there are expectations about what Black reporters can and can’t cover, especially with the rise of beats on race.
“We used to, as Black journalists, be kind of chastised for wanting to cover Black things, and now, it’s turned into us being expected to be the experts on all things Black in our newsrooms, and that also is not fair,” Nettles said.
Tonia Hill, multimedia reporter at the TRiiBE, a digital platform working to reshape the narrative of Black Chicago, said there are barriers that Black journalists face trying to get into the field, such as unpaid internships and having the right connections.
“It’s been Black women who have been helping me along the way here,” Hill said.
Sylvia Snowden, advocacy chair of the National Association of Black Journalists Chicago chapter and host of CAN TV’s Political Forum, said that her role as advocacy chair is not just about making sure there are Black reporters where there traditionally haven’t been, but that they’re also comfortable and welcomed at their workplace.
“We really have to make sure we’re giving them their space and allowing them to bring their whole self to the newsroom and do their work,” Snowden said.