Business and the economy tie into just about every aspect of American culture. Race does, too. Business and race often intersect in a variety of ways, from technology to employment, housing development and more.
Sometimes reporters who cover business don’t see important trends the impact race or know where to look, despite the visibility of racial issues in this country. In this section, we look at reporting tips, databases, issues and story ideas to help reporters cover race as it ties into the world of business
Background and context
Historical context and data go hand-in-hand when reporting and writing about race in business journalism.
For example, the U.S. minority population, currently 30 percent, is expected to exceed 50 percent before 2050, Smithsonian Magazine reported. America’s demographics are seeing a significant shift as the country becomes more diverse. Business journalists need to keep that in mind as they move forward:
According to census data for 2012:
- 8 million firms were owned by non-white business owners, a 38.1 percent increase from five years earlier.
- 3.3 million were Hispanic-owned firms.
- 2.6 million were black or African-American-owned firms.
- 1.9 million were Asian-owned firms.
- Approximately 273,000 firms were owned by American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- Approximately 55,000 firms were owned by native Hawaiians.
The following are just a few topics that provide opportunities to help journalists better report on the intersection of race and business.
Since the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009, employment has been on a steady increase. Race is a factor that certainly plays a key role in employment since black or African Americans, as well as Hispanics and Latinos, are more likely to be unemployed than white and Asian Americans.
This table of unemployment in 2016 can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website:
( Bureau of Labor Statistics)
As you can see, the white unemployment rate is at 4.6 percent, while unemployment among black or African Americans is 9 percent. The differences among ages is significant, as well.
Because jobs and employment are popular business topics, it’s important to identify trends by race and age instead of looking at overall rates.
Reporting on technology has become a cornerstone of business journalism. Various groups use technology differently, and that’s something to keep in mind when reporting about the tech world.
Social media can be a useful tool for digging up sources and stories not found in the field. A PEW Research Center study from 2015 shows that Black and Latino Americans are more likely to use platforms such as Instagram and Twitter than whites:
On Instagram, the 38 percent of black users and 34 percent of Latino users outweigh white users (21 percent). Only 21 percent of white internet users are on Twitter, less than the percentage of black (27) and Latino (25) Twitter users.
Understanding an audience use of technology and social media can also help you pinpoint trends that can make strong business stories.
An emerging concept in the realm of business and race is the process of gentrification in a community. This refers to the geographic patterns of relocation in low-income neighborhoods by more prosperous investors.
The process raises property values in these neighborhoods, but it can also displace small businesses and lower-income residents. Many may represent a variety of racial backgrounds.
It’s a complex issue with a lot of pros and cons. This TED Talk from Stacey Sutton explains what many may not know about the complexities of gentrification:
Business reporters are especially responsible for bringing broad, often complex economic topics down to levels people can understand.
The same goes for reporting on race as it intersects the economy and business. These tips and brainstorming questions are designed to help reporters think about race when covering business topics:
- Look at the demographics and racial makeup in community census data.
- Subscribe to data and research firms that offer story ideas that touch the intersection of race and demographics. The Pew Research Center is a good resource for identifying racial trends supported by data, for example. The Pew Research Center page for Hispanic trends, is one good example:
- When covering aspects of business, such as real estate, technology or banking, see if any trends align with larger racial issues.
- For instance, what black or Latino trends are evident in the real estate business? What about gentrification and displacement of racial groups? How do different racial groups use technology (especially social media?)
- Find ways that businesses in a community market to different racial groups and whether those strategies are responsible and effective.
- Humanize trends.
- Learn to combat jargon in business reporting. Keep word choices in check so that readers understand the material.
- Approach a story with natural curiosity and ask sources how they relate to it. Stick to the data, provide context and deliver truthful information to your readers.
Interview with business reporter Blanca Torres
Blanca Torres is a business reporter for the Seattle Times. She has covered business and the economy for the Baltimore Sun and San Francisco Business Times, and she has been an editorial writer at the Seattle Times. She is also a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
In the brief audio snippet from our interview with Torres, she provides a few tips on developing good story ideas and approaching sources while covering race on a business beat. (The clip has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
These are links to stories that are well-reported and show the intersection of race, demographics and business.
- “The case for reparations” (The Atlantic):
- “Native Americans and alcohol: Assumptions are wrong” (Washington Post):
- “A year in, ‘the sky is not falling’ from Seattle’s minimum wage hike” (The Seattle Times):
- How Social Media Helps Black Lives Matter Fight the Power (Wired):
- Race and housing segregation (Nikole Hannah-Jones of ProPublica):
- “How gentrification is leaving public schools behind” (U.S. News and World Report):
- “The challenge of being a Muslim-American in post-9/11 America” (The Guardian):
Resources and data
These databases and links to outside resources can also be found in the general data tab on the home page.
- U.S. Census: Business owners press release 2015:
- U.S. Census: Quick facts about the United States’ demographics:
- U.S. Census: Easy stats (look at a place’s demographics through a quick search):
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Main page (good site for data by racial groups and class can be found. There are even regional-specific websites):
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Unemployment by race (table is updated regularly):
- Business Insider: Median income by race (Table and graph that shows data, including recessions up to 2012):
- Brandeis University: Study on the growing gap between black and white Americans:
- Racial segregation: Mapping Decline: A collection of maps that detail St. Louis’ racial segregation over time, compiled by Colin Gordon at the University of Iowa.):
http://mappingdecline.lib.uiowa.edu/ Maps are divided up by race and property, white flight, municipal zoning and urban renewal programs (which led to the displacement of black people in cities.)
- New York Times: Mapping segregation: Graphics that show major metropolitan cities and how they are spatially located.):
- USDA Economic Research Services: Race in Rural America (A graphic and visual look at how race has transformed and is transforming in rural America):