HomeAsian AmericansMembers of Congress want more AAPI journalists

Members of Congress want more AAPI journalists

Photo from The Washington Center

By Ed Diokno, Views from the Edge

During the course of my career as a journalist, I was aware every day that I was one of the few Asian Americans in a newsroom. Even in the racially diverse Bay Area where there are large AAPI communities, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were woefully underrepresented in journalism. 

Decades passed but in all that time, not much has changed.

On Monday, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) sent a letter to executives at ABC News, CBS News, CNN Worldwide, Fox News, NBC News and MSNBC requesting information on what steps are being taken to promote representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) both on camera and behind the scenes. 

The letter was led by CAPAC Chair Judy Chu, D-CA, CAPAC First Vice Chair Grace Meng, D-NY, and CAPAC Whip Ted Lieu, D-CA. 

Specifically, the letter requests information on steps being taken to increase paid television contributors, how many AAPIs are currently in decision making positions, how many AAPI anchors there are, and what networks are doing to cultivate new talent.

“As AAPIs continue to grow in population and influence, it is important to see that change reflected in our media as well. That includes not only on-air representation, but also more seats at the table as producers and contributors in order to help ensure more perspectives are reflected in the news coverage we watch,” said Chu. 

“Increased AAPI representation is particularly important on issues like immigration, where AAPIs are the fastest growing demographic, but are often excluded from coverage of immigration issues,” she said. “This is a change that media executives have acknowledged is necessary, and so we are sending this letter for an update on where things stand. As the 2020 election approaches and news coverage becomes more important, it is vital that we ensure all voices are heard and represented.”

“Diversity and inclusion are the building blocks for a more just and equitable society. That is why, I have continued to fight to make sure our institutions – from businesses to academia; from entertainment to government – live up to these ideals. Actions, however, must match words, which is why shining a light onto the diversity and inclusion efforts at major media outlets is so important,” said Meng. 

“The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, and – whether in front of or behind the camera; whether in the editing room or in the executive room – our diverse communities must have fair and meaningful representation. 

“No longer are we made invisible, without a voice, or a mere afterthought. We must hold the major network news accountable for their inclusion and engagement efforts, including efforts to build the pipeline of representation, and commitment to telling AAPI stories that resonate, not just with our AAPI community, but with our entire nation. After all, the AAPI story is the American story. The AAPI perspective and roles are critical to the full American story. I look forward to the responses from each of the major networks.”

“As a proud member of CAPAC, I am pleased to co-lead this effort to encourage increased representation of the AAPI community in the news media,” said Rep. Lieu. “For too long, AAPIs have been underrepresented within this industry, leaving many voices unheard and opinions overlooked. The AAPI community has made monumental contributions to American society and culture, and it is past time to reflect that in our newsrooms.”

A copy of the letter can be found online here.

Data from the American Society of Newspaper Editors shows newsrooms across the US are overwhelmingly White. This is true for both conservative-leaning papers like The Wall Street Journal (80.81% White) and liberal-leaning papers like The Washington Post (71.08% White).

Among the newspapers with the largest circulations in the US, The Los Angeles Times (14.8% Asian) and Washington Post (12.65% Asian) reported comparatively larger percentages of staff who identified as Asian, while The Chicago Tribune (3.42% Asian) and Boston Globe (4.86% Asian) reported smaller percentages.

Television news has a similar problem with Asian American representation. According to the most recent data from the Radio Television Digital News Association, Asian American representation in TV news has declined to 2%.

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