July 25, 2013— -- The face of the nation is changing fast, but the White House press corps remains the same.
A new report in The Washington Post details how the news media, and especially the White House press, is disproportionately whiter and less diverse than the country as a whole.
"At a time when one of the most contentious subjects in Washington is immigration reform — an issue of great import to many Hispanics — the people questioning the president on a regular basis are unlikely to be Hispanic themselves," the Post's Paul Fahri writes.
Here are some of the figures that illustrate the news media's lack of racial diversity, which the Post pulled from the American Society of News Editors' annual survey.
12.4 percent: The proportion of U.S. newspaper journalists who are racial minorities.
21.5 percent: Proportion of minority TV journalists.
11.7 percent: Proportion of minority radio journalists
37 percent: The U.S.'s minority population
7: Number of full-time White House correspondents who are African-American or Asian-American, out of 53. That's 13.2 percent. Figures for other groups weren't available.
3: Number of African-Americans who have served on the White House Correspondents Association board in its 99-year history.
Why does it matter?
Reporters can cover many topics that don't relate to their racial or ethnic background. But Richard Prince, who blogs about news media diversity, told the Post that the racial heritage of reporters can subtly influence what questions they ask -- and how the White House agenda is shaped.
"The White House is quite conscious of which reporters are present, and the president tailors his conduct accordingly," Prince told the Post. "He knows that so-and-so is likely to ask a question about a given topic. [So] having more people of color in the room means more opportunities for the president to be asked about topics of particular concern to those constituents."
Prince cited a Univision forum in which anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas grilled President Obama with tough questions. It led to one of Obama's most newsworthy and candid moments of the campaign, in which he conceded you can only change Washington "from the outside."
"Within the Hispanic community, since we are gravely under-represented politically, Univision and the Spanish language media have become social leaders or activists," Ramos told the New Republic last November. "Something has to compensate for that. That's where Univision and Spanish language media comes in. We do things you would not expect other networks to do in terms of giving guidance to our viewers on a lot of issues like immigration, health care, and voter registration."