The Michigan Daily conducted a demographics survey during the summer of 2020 to gain a better understanding of the barriers to access in our newsroom. After keeping the anonymous survey open for one month, 282 staffers responded to the survey out of 488 staffers total in both the Editorial and Business halves of The Daily, a 57.8 percent response rate.
The recently formed Access and Inclusion Committee created a report summarizing the findings. We created another survey asking anyone in the newsroom to share their thoughts on the results, anonymously if preferred, and have included all responses.
The 2020 Demographics Survey largely confirmed that our newsroom is a majority rich, white, hetero and cis organization much like the rest of the University of Michigan. Latinx, first-gen and low-income students in particular are underrepresented at The Michigan Daily compared to the general campus population.
While we acknowledge that this data is not entirely reflective of our newsroom because of non-response, the numbers still hold great value. The Daily has clear socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality disparities. Acknowledging this, The Access and Inclusion committee and the newsroom as a whole can move forward prioritizing diversity and inclusion.
The Daily created two Access and Inclusion co-chair positions in 2018 for students outside of the newsroom to help with conflict resolution and diversity, equity and inclusion work. This summer, Access and Inclusion has expanded to a committee of four students, and we’re looking to hire one more.
We are committed to ensuring that The Daily grows more representative of all identities on our campus. Without this, we know our newsroom and our coverage suffer because we do not accurately reflect the communities that we serve.
Our purpose is not to fill some diversity quota or to uphold an appearance of diversity. Rather, we are committed to making sure that people from all backgrounds and experiences, especially those with marginalized backgrounds, feel welcomed at The Daily and feel encouraged to make their voices heard.
Income Level and Student Status
The Daily does not pay its staffers much for their work, and the survey reveals that we are not accessible to lower-income students as a result.
Here are some of the most telling statistics:
There are three times more staffers from families making $200,000 per year than staffers from families making less than $75,000 per year.
Though 14.8 percent of undergraduates at the University come from families making less than $50,000, only 6.8 percent of The Daily’s staffers do.
Only 16 staffers who responded to the survey said they were work-study students.
One staffer said he wants to know if the socioeconomic divide is even more apparent among editors at The Daily. He noted that editors have to commit large amounts of time to the newspaper before and during their tenure, which is less possible for lower-income students.
Though the survey didn’t ask for the positions of those who responded, we believe an even greater stratification of income is very likely among editors based on the nature of editor roles.
LSA senior Aria Gerson, a sportswriter on the football beat, said she “grew up solidly middle class, so I was pretty shocked to see that 70 percent of The Daily staff is richer than I am.”
Similarly, LSA sophomore Haley Johnson, an assistant social media editor, said, “As a low income student, I was really shocked by the income distribution of Daily staffers. I hope we can work to get better class representation on our staff.”
One thing The Daily should do is create an easily accessible list of Daily scholarships, third-party journalism scholarships and paid internship opportunities, Gerson said. Though The Daily sends these resources sporadically, Gerson said she’s largely had to find them on her own.
16.3 percent chose not to answer any income-level related questions.
Race and Ethnicity
The majority of staffers in the newsroom are white. Asian staffers, while still a minority in the newsroom, make up a much greater percentage of the newsroom than all other POC staffers combined.
Here are the breakdowns by race at The Daily:
Gerson suggested that The Daily could work with other campus outlets to establish student chapters of certain national journalism associations, such as Association for Women in Sports Media, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.
“This would likely help recruit more diverse talent because students could see more people in this industry who looked like them and those orgs also provide tons of internship and scholarship opportunities,” Gerson said.
Gender and Sexuality
LSA junior Alex Harring, a senior news editor, said The Daily should consider creating employee resources groups, which exist at many professional outlets.
He pointed to NBC, which has a Black Employee Network, OUT at NBC, Women at NBC.
“(It’s a) great way to build community and have a space to share ideas and concerns,” Harring said. “Could be as simple as a pizza dinner once a month or something like that!”
The Daily: Post-COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd
About 9 percent of those who responded to the survey or their immediate families have contracted the coronavirus. Out of these 9 percent, about 16 percent said they or their family member could not access adequate medical care.
Only 27 percent of staffers said they thought about their race on a daily basis prior to George Floyd’s death. That number shot up to 81.9 percent after George Floyd’s death.
All 50 states and four countries outside of the United States (Chile, Hong Kong, India and Taiwan) are represented at The Daily. The Daily has a similar in-state vs. out-of-state proportion as the general undergraduate population.
The large majority of students (70.5 percent) are in the School of Literature, Science and the Arts.
Notably, a significant proportion of staffers are new. Close to 60 percent have been at The Daily for less than one year, while a bit more than a quarter of the staffers have been at The Daily for 4 semesters or more.
With this information, the Access and Inclusion committee has been taking the following actions to ensure our goals are upheld. First, we have been communicating with several other newsrooms who have succeeded in their inclusion efforts in attempts to emulate their achievements and learn from their mistakes.
In the future, we will continue conducting more demographic surveys, publishing the results and remaining transparent with our progress. In these surveys, Art and Design senior Emily Considine, editorial page editor, said she hopes to see more section-specific data, “if only to help recruitment committees and section heads understand the ways in which our specific sections need to improve in attracting and representing the rest of the University.”
This year’s Access and Inclusion committee chose not to ask staffers for their section. We thought some students might worry this information could be identifying, especially if there is only one person of a certain identity in a given section — which points to our newsroom’s lack of diversity. However, we will make this an optional question in the future, allowing for a deeper understanding of our demographics so that we can implement more effective recruiting strategies.
In addition, we are in the process of planning a racial bias and reporting sensitivity workshop, and our hope is to make similar workshops routine every semester. This workshop will be mandatory for all students on staff. We will also compile past resources together to create streamlined guides on inclusive style and how to cover communities that one may not be a part of.
Lastly, we want to build stronger and more trusting relations with communities who have historically not had such relations with journalists. The News section has reached out and met with several prominent student groups about their thoughts on our past coverage and how we can work together in the future.
We encourage members of our community to hold us accountable to make all the changes listed above become reality. We want to ensure marginalized voices on our campus are heard and that we end the historical trend of The Daily being a predominantly white, cis, hetero and rich institution.
To provide any feedback, you can reach us at the following email addresses:
Dannah Wilson (A&I Chair), firstname.lastname@example.org
Noor Moughni (A&I Committee Member), email@example.com
Claire Hao (A&I Committee Member), firstname.lastname@example.org