Guild asks AP about internship program

Three graduates of the Associated Press’ internship program asked the company how it plans to recruit minorities as it puts the program on what the AP has described as a one-year hiatus.

Suzanne Gamboa of Washington, Russell Contreras of Boston and Deepti Hajela of New York City came to the bargaining table to tell the AP about their experiences with the intern program and to question the AP about its efforts to hire more minorities.

Of the 1,030 Class A jobs within the company, 49, or 4.75 percent are held by Asians. Blacks hold 54 jobs, or 5 percent, and Hispanics hold 50, or 4.9 percent, said Gamboa, chair of the News Media Guild’s human rights committee.

“As a member of a minority, I tell you these numbers don’t lie,” Contreras said.  “These numbers are a legacy.”

 The minority internship program arose from settlement among the AP, the Guild and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the early 1980s.  The settlement required the AP to keep the minority internship program for five years, from 1983 to 1988.

The internship program “has long been the crack in the door, particularly for journalists of color,” Gamboa said. “Most management is white, and they don’t move in the same circles. The window is open and is being slammed shut.”

The AP said the program costs $600,000 annually and is being suspended for one year to save money.  It defended its record on hiring minorities, saying diversity is essential to the company’s success.

 “As a person of color, I would say you’re not committed,” Contreras said.

 The Guild asked why Diane Parker, the AP’s staffing and diversity director, wasn’t at the bargaining table to discuss the issue of hiring minorities. The AP responded that the Guild should have requested her attendance if the union wanted her there.

The Guild said it wanted to discuss the issue again in January, when the union will present proposals for ways to recruit minorities in the absence of the internship program.

Representing the Guild were: Martha Waggoner, John Braunreiter, Vin Cherwoo, Don Ryan and administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were: Michelle Ehrlich, Alison Quan and attorney Steve Macri.