The Philadelphia Inquirer began informing the 71 newsroom employees Tuesday night that they would be let go as of Jan. 17, 2007. Early reports indicate that as many as 14-16 black journalists were among those laid off, or as much as 22.5 percent of the overall layoffs. According to the 2006 ASNE newsroom census, approximately 11.3 percent of the Inquirer?s newsroom staff is African American.
?This takes the Inquirer in the wrong direction,? said NABJ President Bryan Monroe, vice president and editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines. ?While we recognize that economic realities are forcing industry executives to make tough decisions, it’s troubling to see so many minority journalists being laid off at a disproportionate level.?
A READER RESPONDS: “While NABJ is right — minority reporters were far more likely to be laid off than whites — it leaves out the fact that those folks were also far more likely to be at the bottom of the seniority ladder. Newspapers didn’t really start hiring minorities in earnest until the ’90s. So yeah, the laid-off people were targeted, but not because of their skin color. And what about the minority reporters who hold speciality beats, whose contributionto the paper was deemed so critical that their jobs were saved at the expense of a longer-tenured colleague? If the Guild had its way and seniority was the only determining factor, they’d be gone too.”