The Daily Northwestern’s Spring 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 our staff’s composition fluctuates 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 Spring Quarter, from March to June 2021.

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 NU and Evanston communities to the best of our ability.

Editor’s Note: Staff participation in the survey slightly decreased from Winter Quarter to Spring Quarter from a sample size of 79 to 74, significantly below the 2020 annual survey sample size of 94, which was collected last Spring Quarter. Comparisons to last year’s staff should be examined with this in mind.

Survey Results

Race

The Daily has disproportionately lost staffers of color this year.

Our newsroom has always been overwhelmingly White. At the end of spring 2020, about 60 percent of staffers were White; at the end of spring 2021, about 63 percent of staffers were White. This was the first year we collected metrics quarterly, and quarter over quarter, we found that staffers of color left the newsroom at alarming rates.

Since Fall 2020, our newsroom staff has become almost 10 percentage points more White, increasing from 53.8 percent to 63.0 percent White. As we’ve seen participation in the report decrease since the fall, this means White staffers stayed, while staffers of color left: the proportions of Black, East Asian or Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and North African, Latinx and South Asian students on staff each saw a decline of about 2 percentage points since last fall. Our newsroom saw its first Indigenous staffer this year, but there are still no Indigenous staffers in leadership positions at The Daily.

The Daily’s editorial board was about 4 percentage points more White in Spring 2021 than it was last fall. The team saw 4 percentage points more South Asian members, 2 percentage points fewer Black staffers and about 3 percentage points fewer Latinx members. Its share of Middle Eastern and North African staffers has remained about the same.

Gender and Sexuality

Our proportion of LGBTQ+ staffers has grown dramatically over the course of the academic year, from 28 percent in Fall 2020 to 39.2 percent in Winter 2021 and 48.6 percent this spring. Last year, only 30.9 percent of our staff held queer identities.

For the first time ever, more than half of our editorial board identifies as LGBTQ+, at 53.6 percent. These proportions exceed the student body makeup documented by the 2020 Associated Student Government analytics survey, which reported that 25 percent of NU undergraduates identified as LGBTQ+.

Since we started collecting metrics, The Daily has been a largely woman-identifying space. Our share of cisgender woman staffers increased since winter 2021, from 63.2 percent to 69 percent. The Daily also saw a slight decrease in cisgender men on staff, dropping from 30.4 percent to 25 percent in the same time period. There was also an increase in staffers who identified as non-binary, from 2.5 percent to 6 percent.

The Daily’s editorial board looks a little different, with a smaller share of cisgender women and men than previous quarters. Fourteen percent of our editorial board identifies as non-binary, the highest we’ve ever recorded. ASG reported in 2020 that just 2.5 percent of NU students identified as gender non-conforming.

Socioeconomic Diversity

In regards to The Daily’s socioeconomic diversity, the numbers of staffers receiving financial aid increased from fall 2020 to spring 2021. In Fall 2020, about 53 percent of staffers indicated that they did not receive financial aid from the University and this quarter, that number fell to 47 percent. In Winter 2021, 51 percent of staffers indicated that they did not receive financial aid. The University reports that 39 percent of students do not receive financial aid.

The percentage of Daily Staffers who identify as first-generation college students nearly doubled from winter 2021 when 3.8 percent identified as first-generation. 6.8 percent of The Daily’s staff identify as first-generation college students in Spring 2021, the exact same number as fall 2020.

FGLI representation on staff increased in the 2019-2020 school year following the introduction of the McCormick scholars program in Fall Quarter 2019, a quarterly stipend awarded through Medill to reduce some of the barriers to reporting. However, Spring 2021 was McCormick’s last quarter due to the end of the grant we received to fund the program. As a result, we must identify and grow alternative sources of funding to support our FGLI staffers.

Takeaways

Our retention rates are unacceptably low this year, especially for staffers of color. As we transition to an in-person newsroom this fall, it is critical that we grow into a more actively supportive organization. Representation is not enough — we must ensure our newsroom is an equitable, safe place to work. We commit to making our newsroom more financially accessible, supporting desks that have historically lacked investment, offering more opportunities for professional development and community within our staff, and actively affirming our reporters, producers and editors. We also commit to increasing our newsroom’s transparency.

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

Related Stories:
The Daily Northwestern’s Winter Quarter 2021 Diversity Report
The Daily Northwestern’s Fall Quarter 2020 Diversity Report
The Daily Northwestern’s 2020 Diversity Report

Comments