Where's the Diversity At in the Orange County Register's Recent Hiring Spree?
Yes, yes: The Orange County Register has embarked on a hiring spree not seen since the days Otis Chandler was sweating money back in the 1980s. Yes, yes: hiring up, not down, is a wonderful strategy, not just because it ensures news reporting doesn't disappear but also employs people and keeps writers from joining the dark side that is PR.
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it: I'll hire people who look like me!"
But a funny thing has emerged as Reg reporter Aaron Kushner basks in the limelight of positive press for turning himself into the Daddy Warbucks of print. Notice all the Reg reporters? They're so...white. It's about as white as the Balboa Bay Club membership--and even this den of old money keeps a couple of token "Hispanics" to spice up the membership rolls.
An imperfect analysis* of the Reg's new hires show that the reporters hardly match the new multicultural reality that is Orange County. Out of the 76 (!) reporters and editors hired since Kushner purchased the paper almost a year ago, 79 percent of them are gabacho--this, in a county that became majority-minority nearly a decade ago and which 2010 Census figures show is only 43.5 percent gabacho (and that figure includes a hell of a lot of Arabs, Turks, and Persians, figures the Census still barely acknowledges). And the numbers only get worse once you start stacking them compared to county figures for "minorities."
When it comes to Asians, which make up 18 percent of the county's population, only about 8 percent of the Reg's new hires are Asians--and not a single one of them have been Vietnamese or Korean, the county's two biggest Asian groups.
When it comes to Latinos, of course, the numbers are even more pathetic. In a county that's just over a third Latino, only 8 percent of the Reg's new hires are Latino--and one of them was a rehire in society reporter Anne Valdespino. And another person I'm counting for this list is a layout guy.
The only group over-represented on this list are African-Americans: 2.6 percent of their new hires (a whopping two reporters) is African-American--this, in a county that's 2.1 percent African-American. Progress!
The Register's emphasis on the white goes along with Kushner's push to turn back the clock in OC to the 1950s, back when everything was great and gabacho 'round here, instead of covering the county for what it is. And while I'm the first person to hire folks based on their qualifications and not to fill a quota (that is, if I had the ability to hire people...), I also know a hell of a lot of supremely talented Latino, African-American, and Asian-American reporters here in Southern California who have been out of work for years, who the Register could've easily called up for an interview--and who didn't.
And before someone starts prying into the Weekly's ranks: we got two Mexis, one Asian, and one negrito on a staff of 11. We were better with diversity, and we can be better--but I don't got millions of pesos to play around with like Kushner, you know?
*The figures for this post came from tracking all writers we could find who didn't have a byline before May, and verifying they are still reporting for the Register. It would've been much easier if Reg Minister of Information Eric Morgan could've provided us with a list of all the newbies, but he declined--not a surprise. When we asked him for the ethnic breakdown of the new hires, he never responded back.