Candelario Vasquez was in his freshman year at Florida State University when he first read the stories that made him want to be a writer who centered his work around community issues. The majority of the stories he had to analyze and give his perspective on were about British writers.
“I felt like the stories that the professors gave me to analyze never really spoke to me,” said Vasquez, a Florida State University communication studies and english literature graduate who spent time teaching community media at Encuentro, a non-profit organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I didn’t grow up reading a lot of minorities of color, so it was hard for me. I couldn’t relate to the writings in any way. I didn’t have a mentor, and I knew it was going to be hard for me to find a mentor of color.”
Employment in daily U.S. newspapers are reflecting what Vasquez is saying. The number of minorities in the workforce (including Native American, Hispanic, Asian American, Black and multiracial groups) was 32,900 and only 4,200 of those minorities are employed in daily newspapers in 2015 according to 2015 census data collected by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE).
Minorities only makeup 12.76 percent of the U.S. newspaper workforce.
Those numbers have slightly increased since 2012 where the overall percentage of minorities in the U.S. population was 36.6 and the number of full-time minority journalists was 8.5 percent, according to a study by The American Journalist In The Digital Age.
At UNM, Hispanics are leading in the percentage of students who are pursuing their degree in journalism and mass communication with 52.4 percent but yet other ethnicity groups are still being underrepresented. Black, Native American, Asian American, and multicultural students make up less than 13 percent of the student population according to data by The University Of New Mexico.
Because the numbers of minority journalists in the workforce are still is small, students like UNM senior Kevin Maestas still are worried, but hopeful.
“There’s always this uncertainty in the workforce regardless of whatever kind of job that you’re going into, and hopefully my addition to this field of minorities will make this thing rise,” said Maestas, UNM journalism and mass communication student.
“But I feel like it’s really important that I’m entering the field of journalism and actually looking at this stats further solidifies the reason why I want to go into the field. It’s just offering that person a different perspective allowing people to see that minus skin color and dialect and the language you’re speaking you’re also experiencing things similarly.”
Hispanics had a total of 1,377 employees working in the newsroom in 2015 while African Americans had 1,560, Asian Americans had 926, Multiracial had 185, and Native Americans came in with the lowest at 118, according to the ASNE 2015 census data.
“Now that I’ve been going to the journalism school here at UNM, I find it that sometimes it’s hard for a minority to be in this field because I feel like journalism in many times is more for a privileged type of student,” said Isaac De Luna, KLUZ-TV newscast director and UNM communication and journalism student.
“It’s very time demanding, and many of our minority students here at UNM do not have the amount of time to be a journalist even while you’re going to school.”
In smaller news outlets, the numbers are actually worse for minorities. Newspapers with a circulation of less than 50,000 usually have no minorities working in their newsrooms, according to ASNE 2015 census data.
“We need to focus more on social media to give more minority journalists a chance to succeed. We need to give them more of a platform,” said Vasquez.“But that depends on us. We need to weed out and find these journalists and support them, or else they keep being unnoticed.”