By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The layoffs taking place at Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers are being called “a giant step backward” for diversity in the newsroom.  And now, the national and local associations of black journalists are protesting.

Inquirer sports writer John Mitchell says he always wanted to come back to the city to work, and he thought his dream had come true when he got hired in November.  Then, in February, the company announced layoffs (see related stories), and Mitchell knew he wouldn’t survive the ten percent staff cut.

“This is where it is today,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “Four months to do the job, then it vanishes.”

But Mitchell’s departure is not just a personal loss.  It removes an African-American voice from the paper, something the local and national Association of Black Journalists say is already in too short supply.

Chris Murray of the Philadelphia ABJ says he understands that the union contract requires the last hired to be laid off first, but he thinks some adjustments are needed.

“When they negotiate these things, they have to start considering diversity in that process,” he says.

The union has denounced all the layoffs.  A company spokesman says they are necessary but the papers will continue working with the ABJ to find ways to diversify the newsroom.


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