The Daily Northwestern’s Winter Quarter 2021 Diversity Report

The Daily Northwestern has never fully represented the Northwestern or Evanston communities. The composition of our newsroom affects the stories we choose to publish, the sources we quote and the judgments we make as a student newspaper. We started releasing an annual diversity report in 2018 in an effort to be more transparent about our staff and our coverage.

However, we recognized that our staffers fluctuate throughout the year. Starting in Fall 2020, we began publishing a diversity report at the end of every quarter. The following metrics reflect our newsroom composition for Winter Quarter, from January to March 2021. We’ll publish a new diversity report reflecting Spring Quarter this June.

Documenting the composition of our newsroom alone is not enough. We need to take action in response to our metrics. We are regularly reevaluating the way we report, write and produce content to ensure we are operating through a lens of diversity and inclusion, and that we are supporting the Northwestern and Evanston communities to the best of our ability.

Early in the winter, The Daily’s diversity and inclusion team set goals to address retention of staffers of color and support for reporters with marginalized identities. These goals included creating more affinity spaces for staffers and aggregating resources for marginalized reporters.

Even in non-pandemic years, we often observe a large decrease in newsroom size from Fall Quarter to Winter Quarter. Staff participation in the survey decreased from Fall Quarter from a sample size of 117 to 79, significantly below the 2020 annual survey sample size of 94, which was collected last Spring Quarter.

 

Survey Results 

Race

We saw a dramatic decrease in staffers of color compared to Fall 2020, with our share of White staffers increasing from 53.8 percent to 65.8 percent, remaining the largest racial bloc of the newsroom.

East Asian, Pacific Islander and South Asian staffers again make up the second-largest share of the staff at 28.5 percent. Black staffers decreased by almost half from last quarter, making up 4.5 percent of the newsroom. Hispanic or Latinx staffers make up 2.3 percent. Around 2.3 percent of staffers identify as Middle Eastern or North African and 1.3 percent of staffers are Indigenous.

Our editorial board is slightly skewed from the newsroom demographic. For example, 61.5 percent of our editorial board members identify as White. East Asian, Pacific Islander and South Asian editors make up 16 percent of the board, followed by Black editors and Hispanic or Latinx editors at 2.5 percent each.

Three edit board members and six staffers identified as multiracial and were counted as each of the races they wrote down on the form.

Gender and Sexuality

While The Daily is still largely a majority-women space, compared to Fall 2020, its share of cisgender woman staffers decreased from 69.2 percent to 63.2 percent. Conversely, The Daily saw an increase in cisgender man staffers from 28.2 percent to 30.4 percent. There was an increase in staffers who identified as non-binary as well, from 1.7 percent to 2.5 percent. However, this is attributed to the smaller sample size, as the actual number of gender non-conforming staffers has remained the same compared to the previous quarter. ASG reported in 2020 2.5 percent of Northwestern students identified as gender non-conforming. 

This Winter, there was an increase in LGBTQ+ staffers and a decrease in heterosexual staffers. In Fall 2020, around 28 percent of Daily staffers identified as LGBTQ+. This Winter, that number rose significantly — 39.2 percent of Daily staffers identified as LGBTQ+. This proportion exceeds the student body makeup documented by the 2020 Associated Student Government analytics survey, which reported that 25 percent of Northwestern undergraduates identified as LGBTQ+.

Socioeconomic Diversity

In regard to The Daily’s socioeconomic diversity, the numbers of staffers receiving financial aid remained relatively static from fall 2020 to winter 2021. In fall 2020, 52.1 percent of Daily staffers did not receive financial aid. This winter, that number decreased slightly, with 51 percent of staffers not receiving financial aid.

This winter, there was also a decrease in the number of Daily staffers who identify as first-generation college students. In fall 2020, 6.8 percent of Daily staffers identified as first-generation. This winter, that proportion dropped to only 3.8 percent. This continues a downward trend in The Daily’s number of staffers who identify as first-generation college students. For reference, 7.4 percent of Daily staffers in the 2019-20 academic year identified as first-generation college students.

With decreasing socioeconomic diversity and the discontinuation of the McCormick scholars program — which is set to end after Spring Quarter — The Daily must work to better foster a space inclusive for first-generation low-income staffers while also providing palpable resources for these staffers.

Takeaways

With a smaller and less diverse staff than we saw last quarter, our coverage became less inclusive in many respects. We’ve seen large dips in non-White sourcing across our multimedia desks, and our print coverage remains notably lacking in transgender and gender non-conforming perspectives. This is unacceptable, and we are currently re-evaluating the ways editors plan content and work with staffers, including encouraging reporters to report on communities to which they do not belong and to tapping into varying networks from which they source.

As Evanston’s paper of record, we, as students, are sometimes guilty of dropping into a community that most of us do not call home, reporting and leaving. With knowledge of this dynamic in mind, our team is engaging with desk editors to find more innovative ways to interface with our community and ensure that reporters work to sustain source relationships and consider all stakeholders in our coverage.

As we look ahead, we remain committed to expanding and diversifying our work by reaching out to life-giving student organizations and enriching staffers’ experiences from within.

We urge other college publications, both at Northwestern and around the nation, to critically assess their newsrooms and publish similar reports as a part of an active effort to better serve their communities and staffers.

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