Will statute of limitations end for Blacks in sports media?

By Charles Hallman
Staff Writer

Illustration by Christopher E. Harrison

Non-traditional media could diversity landscape

My column last week posed the idea that an all-Black sports radio station is important and now needed here in the Twin Cities.

This week we ask when the statute of limitations will end for Blacks to be fully included in the sports-media landscape that has been long barren for us.

If traditional media (radio, television and print) is unwilling, unable, or both to include more Blacks, then perhaps non-traditional media, including satellite radio, the web and social media is the way to go for Black sports journalists.

When the XM-Sirius merger first was proposed, the competing satellite radio services then claimed that if federally approved, more channels would open up for use by ethnic services. It’s been over two years now, and still there’s nothing except a sports channel called “Mad Dog Radio,” named for some White East Coast sports guy.

“I am a little disappointed that with Sirius and XM Radio there’s not a channel that’s all Black [sports]. It should have happened by now,” notes KFAN’s Henry Lake.

Heritage Sports Radio Network’s Omarr Bashir told me recently that his HSRN soon will get more air time on Sirius XM. Thus far, his Black college sports programming is only heard on football Saturdays.

Almost 30 of us Blacks once studied journalism at a large, predominately White university in Michigan during the 1970s. Way too often told by White professors that we didn’t belong, I wore them down my stubbornness eventually and I earned my journalism degree in 1977.

I’m sad to say that I can’t tell whatever happened to the others.

As a result, I fully understood Robert Littal’s frustrations when we talked about his embarking into the “never-never land of sports media” as far as Blacks are concerned. “I always wanted to be in sports media [since] I was a little kid,” says Littal, a native of St. Louis, Missouri.

After graduating from Ohio State in 2002 with a journalism degree, Littal started out as a freelance writer at the St. Louis American, a Black newspaper in St. Louis. But according to him, “I felt I wasn’t [getting] my voice out the way I wanted to,” he recalls.

Littal started BlackSportsOnline.com in 2006. It has been ranked tops among independent Black-owned sports websites by Alexa.com. Google reports that he gets at least two million page views per month.

“I believe as an independent journalist,” explains Littal, “you have some freedoms that say a writer from ESPN.com won’t have. I can speculate on things and give more honest opinions because I am my own boss. There wasn’t the type of stories and accountable opinions out there enough.”

He also grew tired of watching and listening to “these older Caucasian gentlemen trying to relate to younger Black males playing sports,” continues Littal.

“I felt that I had a better understanding of what some of these guys were coming up in, and could give not so much my perspective, but at least it would be a different one, coming from a different angle.

“What I try to [do] is give an alternative take to whatever is going on,” he says of his site which also covers the media and entertainment. He also uses other writers who like himself, expresses views that are innovative, informative, controversial and unbiased, “an alternative take that would [offer something] people wouldn’t get anywhere else,” surmises Littal.

This to me is better than the typical homer hanky-waving analysis and endless second-guessing we are regularly treated to locally in print and over the air.

Therefore, we Blacks must tell these station owners, managers and program directors, and editors and publishers — the majority of which are White — that we are tired of sports coverage mainly from a vanilla perspective. Change for them is a two-letter word: No.

They must know that it isn’t just this persistent and consistent reporter who complains about it, but others like me who want non-token change.

“I think we’ve allowed other people to define [sports] opinion without us,” believes Bashir, who strongly urges Black listeners “to call the station managers and say we need a new voice.”

Blacks must write letters and send emails as well, I’d add.

Littal found a better path for his sports reporting. So has Bashir.

So have other Blacks, who have successfully bypassed traditional media that would rather use woefully untalented folk instead of truly diversifying and hiring qualified Blacks as on-air talent, print reporters and columnists.

“This is a good time now to get into the web media,” concludes Littal.

“Anybody can literally start a site. Just make sure that you have a passion for it, you are dedicated and you have good people around you giving you good advice.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.