Student workVirtual 2021

The Great Resignation: Why journalists of color left the industry

We speak with four journalists of color — two who have left, and two who have come close — to hear their stories and better understand the forces behind the “Great Resignation.”

Published August 26, 2021

Headshot of Karena Tse Karena Tse
Headshot of Iris Kwok Iris Kwok

This is an audio story.

Listen to it below:

It’s no secret that the demographic makeup of U.S. newsrooms seldom reflect the diversity of the communities they cover. In fact, a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis found that 77% of newsroom employees in the U.S. are white.

To understand why newsrooms still struggle to sustain people of color, Carla Murphy interviewed 101 ex-journalists of color for her ‘Leavers’ Survey between February and March last year. The survey raised crucial conversations about the industry’s representation problem and helped uncover the factors that pushed many of these journalists of color out of a field they originally entered because of a passion for serving the public.

In this story, we continue these conversations the ‘Leavers’ Survey first brought forth — difficult conversations about race, representation, and identity. We speak with four journalists of color — two who have left, and two who have come close — to hear their stories and better understand the forces behind the “Great Resignation.”

Erika Lee

is a multimedia journalist who recently finished her term with CBS2 in Boise, Idaho. She spoke about covering anti-Asian hate crimes as an Asian-American broadcast journalist — an experience so isolating and exhausting, she considered leaving journalism for good.

Carla Murphy

is an essayist and editor working in journalism reform. She authored the 2020 ‘Leavers’ Survey, an informal survey of ex-journalists of color. Her work has helped raise conversations about how the news industry can better recruit and retain JOCs so that newsrooms better reflect the diversity of the United States.

Aaron Williams

is a data reporter-turned software engineer. He’s also a co-founder and administrator of the Journalists of Color Slack, a 2,000+ member online space that helps foster conversations and form support networks between journalists of color. In January, he wrote a piece for the organization OpenNews detailing the unexpected guilt he felt for leaving a job he had for years attached to his personal value.

Nadra Nittle

is a senior reporter at Civil Eats, and she has spent more than 15 years working in the news industry. While Nadra has contemplated leaving journalism on several occasions, which she mostly attributes to both burnout and a lack of support in newsrooms she’s worked in, she seems to have chosen to stay. She explains why.

Karena Tse and Iris Kwok are 2021 Voices students. Naina Rao and Melissa Rosales edited the audio team.

Karena Tse graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May. She is a reporter at the Lake Geneva Regional News. 

Iris Kwok is a senior at UC Berkeley studying political science, music and journalism. She writes for her student newspaper, The Daily Californian, and recently finished an internship at the San Francisco Examiner.

Naina Rao is a freelance radio reporter from Indonesia, currently based in Detroit.

Melissa Rosales is a reporter/producer for Nebraska Public Media, in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Headshot of Karena Tse

Karena Tse

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Headshot of Iris Kwok

Iris Kwok

University of California

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The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is a membership nonprofit advancing diversity in newsrooms and ensuring fair and accurate coverage of communities of color. AAJA has more than 1,500 members across the United States and Asia.

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