2016 Trends in Multicultural Media: Newsroom Diversity Challenges, Race Relations as a Beat, New Launches

multicultural media trends

In today’s media landscape, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your game.

News organizations continued to face challenges this year (Read: acquisitions, layoffs, partnering, and going digital). Multicultural news media also remained in a state of flux, but with one major exception: It was an election year.

That meant a lot of eyes were on minority voters and the news agencies that covered them.

Jay Kaspian Kang, Vice News Tonight correspondent and New York Times Magazine writer-at-large, broke things down in his Open Letter to Fellow Minority Journalists: “Too many of us were brought into media as part of a cynical push to turn “race writing” … into a click factory (Or, perhaps, more tellingly, to satisfy the guilt of white editors who finally looked around and realized that their liberal values were in direct conflict with the optics of their workplace.)”

It’s clear, as Kang points out, that the path to success as a journalist still remains the same. But, the struggle news outlets face in reaching minority readers — and multicultural media in trying to stay afloat — is more real and complex than ever.

Here’s our round-up of big news stories that affected the multicultural media world in 2016.

Partnerships and New Launches

The big story this year was Univision’s aggressive acquisition plan, which included The Onion network and Gawker Media.

The latter deal cost $135 million and set up more changes: Univision rebranded Gawker Media as Gizmodo Media Group, which would operate as a separate unit within Fusion Media Group.

Univision also bought Walt Disney Co.’s ABC stake in Fusion.

Recent reports revealed Univision plans to restructure Fusion, cutting around 6 percent of its workforce and turning its focus to video.

Another multicultural news launch that took place in 2016 — The New York Times came out with Race/Related, a newsletter that explores race with reporting and discussion.

Our Diverse Newsrooms

Newsroom diversity grew over the last 12 months, but according to Poynter, it wasn’t happening quickly enough.

Toward the end of 2015, BuzzFeed’s new diversity numbers showed the digital media giant had caught up with The Washington Post. (Incidentally, The Washington Post published an opinion piece about itself in Where is the Diversity in The Washington Post Top Ranks?)

The theme here: Diversity is critical, but it’s slow to move forward.

An example: Toronto just added a new face to its newscast — Canada’s first hijab-wearing news anchor in November.

Even the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists served as a sobering reminder of the need for more journalists of color.

Salon also reported that diversity typically only has one champion in the newsroom, leading to how newsrooms fail to reflect America and why this matters.

Put simply, Salon reports, “Minorities make up 37.02 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. No newsrooms match this.”

The Constant Struggle

When it comes to fighting for survival, media outlets face the same uphill battle: Online news is winning; traditional news outlets struggle.

In Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival, The New York Times talks about how the influence of black-owned media companies on black culture is diminishing.

[Companies] are smaller and lack the financial resources to compete in an increasingly consolidated media landscape,” The Times reports. “Advertisers have turned away from black-oriented media, owners say, under the belief that they can now reach minorities in other ways.”

Unfortunately, media outlets that struggle a little too much face repositioning or closing.

Two such events that took place in recent weeks: Variety Latino to shut down and Fox shutters Fox News Latino.

“On Dec. 8, Fox News Latino (FNL) content will be made available across a wider range of the FoxNews.com website,” said a message on the site. “The FNL team’s reporting will be published in relevant FoxNews.com sections — including US, World, Politics, Opinion, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Health, Science and Tech.”

And How About That Election

No, really. How about that election.

If anyone truly shined in this crazy election year, it was Hispanic media.

Spanish-language networks, like Univision and Telemundo, covered this campaign season like never before.

They used their influence to “provide extensive analysis about the issues raised that directly affect Latinos, organized forums and even actively participated in citizenship and voter registration drives seeking to empower their audiences,” reports Forbes.

But, while Hispanic media were aggressive advocates, many took a stance on the election that was noticeably more neutral and balanced than their English-language counterparts.

Black media worked to stay relevant for their audience, too, but faced hurdles.

African American-owned media outlets across the country saw fewer ad buys during the election, while a mostly white press corps influenced campaign coverage.

Advocates are frustrated about the lack of reporter diversity, particularly when it comes to adding necessary context to stories on “mass incarceration, immigration reform, the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, and other topics in which race, economics and politics intersect,” IBT reports.

In better news, social media is showing some significant impact in making the American political debate more representative.

Race Relations: It’s a Beat

2016 also proved to be a challenging year for race relations.

While many newsrooms struggled to diversify — for example, NPR released its staff diversity numbers and found more than 75 percent of the organization is white — the nation wanted to hear more about race and culture.

So, many news agencies created a news desk. We explored this in The Modern Newsroom: Deep Diving Into the Consumer-Driven News Cycle.

“The race issue in DC is a pretty interesting issue,” said Washington Post reporter Aaron Davis, during a Society of Professional Journalists panel in September. “It started a majority of black. Now, it’s a majority of none, but it’s still very segregated, and this goes back to economic issues.”

The New York Times even created a newsroom-wide team for covering race.

Says Poynter: “Rather than covering race all at once or assigning a single reporter to the topic, The New York Times has created a team of journalists in different departments throughout the newsroom who conceive and develop stories related to the subject.”

More Wins for News Diversity 

It wasn’t all shaky this year for multicultural media, however. There were a few big wins of note.

ESPN’s new(ish) website, The Undefeated, finally got on its feet this year with the installment of a new editor-in-chief.

The site — which explores the intersection of sports, race and culture — has been live since 2013, but floundered under previous leadership. The site relaunched in May, and while its current focus is black male sports fans, EIC Kevin Merida is “adamant about attracting strong engagement and generating interest across all demographics.”

But, ESPN didn’t stop there. The network also created a bilingual sports show for ESPN 2, and added two Latina anchors to its SportsCenter line-up, among other moves.

“As far as ESPN is concerned, the company’s Hispanic market strategy is paying off,” reports Forbes. Big increases in Hispanic audience growth are being seen across the board.

Snapchat too recognized the benefits of targeting the growing Hispanic segment, with the addition this month of Mitú to its Discover channel. It also recently partnered again with Essence.

From Nick Bell, VP of Content for Snap: “It’s important to us to provide editorial perspectives that fully reflect all members of our community — and equally important to find the right partner with a unique and authentic point of view.”

Finally, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) launched a Multicultural TV Conference because… #Diversity.

The April conference in Las Vegas focused on “how media companies can best capitalize on the diverse audiences inherent to television and other video content viewing, particularly related to talent, content development, brand advertising and publicity,” said IndieWire.

The multicultural market will continue to play a huge role next year. Stay up to date on trends and news by opting into one of our multicultural media lists. Journalists and bloggers can email Jessica.Alas@prnewswire.com for more information, or follow us on Twitter @PRNMltCult.

Authors Anna Jasinski and Christine Cube work in audience relations at PR Newswire. You can catch them sharing journalism and blogging news on @BeyondBylines, or you can follow them on their personal handles at @annamjasinski and @cpcube

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