North by Northwestern is proud to publish its seventh diversity report which tracks the demographic changes in our staff and sourcing across each quarter for transparency and accountability. We are committed to having a diverse newsroom where journalists of all backgrounds are welcome. Our report collects anonymous data from a survey sent out to all of our editors, designers, photographers and contributors for the quarter.
The Spring 2023 survey saw a steep drop in responses from 96 in Winter Quarter to 60 in Spring Quarter. This may be because we had less staffers sharing editor positions and a smaller variety of web and print contributors. Furthermore, most of our staff filled out the form in our first onboarding meeting and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion workshop, but a number of people were absent from both meetings and our efforts to catch them up may have been insufficient.
This report does not distinguish between our web and print staff for each of the demographics we break down, however we do ask the question to understand what proportion of our staff works in each branch of our publication. Keeping in mind that a number of staff members hold positions on both the website and print magazine, 56.9% of our staffers noted that they were on our website’s staff while 37.9% noted that they were on our print staff. The rest of our respondents were contributors for our magazine and website.
Race & Ethnicity
The racial and ethnic categories for identification remain the same in our survey. The majority of staffers continue to identify as white. This quarter, 41.7% of our staff identified as only white, as opposed to 40.4% last quarter. While the NBN diversity survey does not provide a mixed race option, it allows staffers to select all of the races or ethnicities they identify with.
The second largest category continues to be East Asian, with 23.3% of staffers filling this category, a rise from Winter.
The amount of staffers identifying as Latino/a/x or Hispanic decreased this quarter, but the percentage on our staff went up 15% from 13.8% last quarter. The number of Black and/or African American people also decreased this quarter, comprising 10% of our staff.
The number of South and Southeast Asian individuals both slightly increased , together accounting for 10% of the staff in the Spring. The percentage of these categories overall did increase from 5% in the Winter.
The number of Middle Eastern and/or North African staffers decreased to 1.7%, mirroring the percentage of Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander Staffers.
The number and percentage of Central Asian and Indigenous/Native American individuals remained the same at zero.
The method we used to break down gender identity data among our newsroom for Spring 2023 remains the same. Our survey provides staffers with the option to select multiple gender identities to reflect that gender is a fluid identity.
Our newsroom continues to be dominated by cisgender women. However, the percentage of cisgender women among our staff has decreased from 79.6% in Winter 2023 to 76.7% in Spring 2023. Meanwhile, the percentage of cisgender men increased from 16.1% in Winter 2023 to 18.3% in Spring 2023. Staffers who identify as transgender men or transgender women remained the same between Winter 2023 and Spring 2023.
Our survey also allows staffers to identify outside of the binary. The percentage of our staffers who identify with an identity outside of the gender binary increased from 6.5% in Winter 2023 to 10% in Spring 2023. This includes staffers who are agender, gender fluid, gender-nonconforming and non-binary. However, this percentage increase results from the overall decrease in the number of staffers in our newsroom rather than an increase in the number of staffers who share these identities.
Additionally, our staffers also have the choice to identify as questioning in our survey. NBN recognizes that gender identification is a process in which our staffers may be in different stages. The percentage of staffers who identify as questioning decreased from 4.3% in Winter 2023 to 3.3% in Spring 2023.
NBN’s breakdown of sexuality among our newsroom remains the same as previous years. Like with gender identity, our survey allows staffers to choose multiple sexuality choices as NBN recognizes that sexuality is also fluid.
Heterosexuality continues to be the most common sexuality in our newsroom. The percentage of staffers who identify as heterosexual increased from 55.6% in Winter 2023 to 59.3% in Spring 2023. Bixexuality continues to be the second most common sexuality among staffers. The percentage of staffers who identify as bisexual remained about the same, from 25.6% in Winter 2023 to 25.4% in Spring 2023. The percentage of lesbian-identifying staffers also remained nearly the same, from 3.3% in Winter 2023 to 3.4% in Spring 2023. However, the percentage of our staffers who identify as gay decreased from 5.6% in Winter 2023 to 3.4% in Spring 2023. The percentage of queer staffers also decreased from 10% in Winter 2023 to 8.5% in Spring 2023.
As with gender identity, our survey also provides staffers with the option to identify as questioning their sexuality to reflect that sexuality is fluid, and not all of our staffers are at the same stage of this process. The percentage of staffers who chose questioning increased from 2.2% in Winter 2023 to 3.4% in Spring 2023. However, this increase is a result of the overall decrease in the number of staffers in our newsroom rather than an increase in the number of people who identify as questioning.
In Spring 2023, staffers within our newsroom speak a combined total of 10 different languages not including English, a decrease from 13 in Winter 2023. In total, 48.3% of our Spring 2023 staffers speak another language. Of these staffers, Spanish remains the most common language among them, with 51.7% of them being Spanish speakers. Mandarin continues to be the second most common, with 31% of Spring 2023 staffers who speak another language being Mandarin speakers. French continues to be the third most common as 13.8% of our Spring 2023 staffers who speak another language are French speakers. Other languages spoken among our Spring 2023 staffers include Cantonese, Filipino, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Shona and Greek.
The percentage of international students among our staff decreased from 7.4% in Winter 2023 to 6.7% in Spring 2023. Among NBN’s newsroom, international students remain underrepresented. According to the University’s 2022-2023 data set, international students make up 10.5% of the undergraduate student population.
The percentage of first generation students among our staffers decreased from 11.7% in Winter 2023 to 8.3% in Spring 2023.
Likewise, the percentage of staffers who identify as low-income students also decreased significantly. In Winter 2023, 18.1% of staffers identified as low-income students, while in Spring 2023, 10% of staffers identified as low-income students. Our survey also asks whether staffers are employed to gauge the work they balance in addition to NBN. The percentage of staffers who are employed remained almost the same, from 58.5% in Winter 2023 to 58.3% in Spring 2023.
As with surveys from previous quarters, our survey also allows staffers to indicate whether they receive financial aid from the University. The percentage of staffers who receive financial aid decreased from 50% in Winter 2023 to 48.3% in Spring 2023. According to the University’s 2022-2023 data set, 44.66% of all undergraduate students receive financial aid.
In the Spring Quarter, Christianity remained the religion the majority of staffers identified with, at 20 respondents (32.5%). However, this is a drop from the 27 staffers from Winter Quarter. The second-largest religious identity among staffers continued to be agnostics, forming 20.7% of the staff, although the number decreased from 23 to 12 staffers. The third-largest religious identity remains as Jewish, representing 10 staffers, or 17.2% of staff, dropping from the 17 staffers who identified as Jewish in the Winter. Also remaining in its ranking is the atheist category, which covers 12.2% of staff, representing seven staffers, a drop from the 11 members in the Winter. One staffer identified as Hindu, a rise from the zero staffers in the Winter. Additionally, two staffers identified as spiritual but not religious, six identified as none and five staffers identified as not practicing.
The number of staffers who identified as having disabilities rose from 16.3% in Winter 2023 to 20% in Spring Quarter. Overall, 60 responses were received for this question on the survey. The number of staffers with disabilities continues to be higher than Northwestern’s percentage of undergraduate students registered with AccessibleNU, which according to the University’s most recent diversity, equity and inclusion report (from 2021-2022) is 12.3%. However, we recognize that this does not represent the true number of students with disabilities as not all students are registered due to extenuating circumstances. We utilize the University’s report as a point of reference for the wider NU community as it is the best metric available. While a couple of staffers chose to elaborate on their disabilities, it is of best interest to not publish these responses to respect their privacy.
The Spring 2023 Quarter was the first in which writers both for the magazine and website were asked to send a post-interview demographic survey to all of their sources, regardless of whether they were students, staff or Evanston residents. We only received 27 responses to the survey, a significant drop from the 36 responses in the Winter Quarter, despite having writers share the survey with all sources and explain that it was anonymous.
In terms of race and ethnicity, 40.7% of NBN sources identified as white only, the largest demographic, and 33.3% identified as East Asian or East Asian and another identity. Furthermore, 15.8% of sources identified as Black/African American, 5.3% identified as South Asian and another 5.3% identified as Middle Eastern/North African.
Almost all respondents – 16 of them – speak at least one language other than English, including Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Hebrew and Swahili.
Like Winter quarter, the number of respondents identifying as cisgender women outnumbered those who identified as cisgender men. Cisgender women made up 51.8% of our sources while cisgender men made up 14.8%. A handful of respondents also identified outside of the gender binary as Genderfluid, Non-binary and Questioning, with the total percentage being 14.8%, an increase from 11.3% in Winter Quarter.
For religion, the most chosen categories were Christian and Agnostic where 33.3% of respondents identified as Christian and 22.2% of respondents identified as Agnostic. Of the 27 respondents, 11.1% of sources identified as having no religious affiliation and 7.4% identified as Atheist. Other religions represented include Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, not practicing, spiritual but not religious and ‘other.’
Like last quarter, 11% of respondents indicated they have a disability. Out of respect for respondent privacy, we are not providing specifications for these disabilities.
We give sources the chance to indicate if they are a member of a community not mentioned in the survey who is underrepresented in the media as sources. This time, there were no responses for this question.
We acknowledge that the low response rate to our source tracking survey obscures the demographics of our sourcing. We will continue to encourage writers to explain the importance of the source-tracking survey to sources to increase the response rate and ensure the mindful representation of the NU and Evanston communities in our coverage.
In many ways, size and diversity across our staff decreased into the 2023 Spring quarter. While we can’t track down exact explanations for each change, we can speak to the ebbs and flows of student journalism and how staff demographics change as students choose to explore different extracurricular opportunities each quarter on campus. The job of our staff led by our DEI editors is to foster a welcoming space for all students on campus. We are also driven to edit with sensitivity, increase diversity on our staff and organize affinity spaces for student journalists.
Registered as a barrier-free organization, NBN does not require applications for students to join our publication. We also try to make our newsroom accessible with various recruiting events. In the Spring, we successfully hosted our first-ever affinity bonfire with our campus’ student National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Asian American Student Journalists chapters. Medill helped us fund the event with refreshments and over 30 students from all backgrounds showed up to bond with each other. We also hosted a series of workshops in the middle of the quarter to make our meetings more accessible to students who had not been able to attend earlier Sunday section sessions.
Our DEI workshop was hosted by our DEI editors: Sammi Li, Ashley Sanchez and Rafaela Jinich. They led our web and print staff through conversations on sensitive reporting practices and methods for expanding sourcing. We also included new sections on how we can keep DEI in mind for photography and design.
The biggest challenge we face this Fall is how to increase results on our post-interview source tracking survey. We ask our reporters to send an anonymous survey to all of their sources after each interview. The statistics from this survey help us understand the demographics of who we cover and how to improve. Significantly less people filled out our survey: in Winter 2023, we collected 36 responses, but in Spring 2023, we only collected 27. The results of this survey are valuable because we reflect on the statistics in our DEI workshop to speak on how we can speak to a more diverse set of sources. This Fall, we’ve adjusted our policy and ask that our sources fill out the anonymous form at the end – instead of after – the interview.
The biggest takeaway from this report is that we need to improve our methods of data collection and continue engaging in events that make our newsroom a welcoming and barrier-free place. Already, we’ve been pushing the form out more frequently to our staffers. We also hosted another affinity bonfire this Fall in partnership with NABJ, NAHJ and AASJ which was successful – we saw over 50 attendees this time, as opposed to the 30 that attended last Spring’s. Furthermore, we’ve reinstated the NBN mentor program and have paired 47 underclassmen with editors on staff to learn about how they can get more involved with the publication.