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April 28, 2011 at 8:11 AM

Grading America’s sports departments

ReportCard.jpgA lot is made of media and how women’s sports can get more coverage. The crux of the problem usually seems to be pointed at who’s in the sports departments and for the first time since 2008, there’s another head count. But the final grade was an “F” for gender hiring practices in the key positions covered.
This week, the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) released its third Racial and Gender Report Card on newspaper and online newsrooms. APSE partners with The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport to conduct the survey every two years.
The 2010 survey shows women and journalists of color increased as members of the total staffs of all APSE member papers and websites in 2010. However, the number of African-American sports editors has dropped since the last survey in 2008.
“It is critical that media companies take steps to right the ship and promote and hire editors of color who can offer a unique perspective when covering sports and African-American players who dominate the rosters of the NFL and NBA,” said Kathy Y. Times, president of the National Association of Black Journalist in a released statement.
I’d add WNBA to that quote, especially since a 2010 TIDES study showed 69 percent of its players are black. Then, of course, adding more women reporters, columnists, and editors could help in coverage of women’s sports in general.
The TIDES NFL Report Card reported that blacks comprised 67 percent of the players in the league. The NBA Report Card reported 77 percent of its players are black while the percentage of black players in the MLB is nine percent. Twenty-eight percent are Latino.
According to NABJ, there’s one black, female sports editor in the country — Lisa WIlson of the Buffalo News, who was promoted this month. She joins seven other women among the largest circulation sized papers.
ESPN has two African-American sports editors and 23 African-American men and women as columnists, notes Richard Lapchick, the Institute’s director and primary author of this report.
But overall, according to NABJ’s release, 96.86 percent of the nation’s sports editors are white. About 85.64 percent of the sports columnist are white and 85.63 percent of the nation’s sports reporters are white. Among reporters, blacks make up 7.95 percent.
For reference sake, The Seattle Times has a male sports editor in Don Shelton, Cathy Henkel recently retired. We also have two black reporters, including myself, one black columnist and two female reporters, again, including myself.
It shouldn’t imply that my white colleagues can’t cover women or minorities, that’s ignorant. A trained journalist should be able to cover anything. But background, including race and gender, does add to perspective and thought.
Unless newsrooms are motivated to balance themselves, women could run into the same brick wall in striving for equality in coverage. What do you think?



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