Whites Only still the rule for most newspapers’ sports reporting

Jim Crow is alive and living well in racial hiring at both Twin Cities daily newspapers’ sports departments, but they are not alone according to the latest Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) biannual Racial and Gender Report Card.

I’d once said that there’d be a Black president before either the Minneapolis Star Tribune and/or the St. Paul Pioneer Press would ever hire a Black sports columnist, yet alone hire enough Black reporters on staff to require the use of more than a couple of fingers to tally. Presently, it’s been six years since President Barack Obama’s election, which came two years after the APSE first asked The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) in 2006 to review staff and employment practices every two years at its member newspapers.

Sadly, it’s been at least four decades of NBWCs (nothing but White columnists) at both dailies; the MSR has been the only local or state print media with Black sports columnists for eight decades now.

The latest APSE report card shows a combined grade of D for race and gender in 2014. White males dominate at every key newsroom position: 91 percent of sports editors, 90 percent of assistant sports editors, 83 percent of columnists, 85 percent of reporters and 83 percent of copy editors are White males.

The following downward-spiraling diversity numbers from 2012 to 2014 paint a dismal picture nationwide: Black male sports editors dropped from nine to six, and Black assistant sports editors from 17 to five (males) and from four to one (females). Black male sports columnists dropped from 46 to 40, Black male sports reporters from 85 to 40, and Black female sports reporters from 10 to six. Black sports copy editors dropped from 23 to 13 (males) and 13 to 11 (females).

Richard Lapchick
Richard Lapchick

TIDES Director Richard Lapchick asks these three questions the public should ask themselves: “Is the coverage of athletes and sports in the media fair and accurate when women and people of color are the subjects of the reporting? Are women and people of color fairly represented on today’s newspaper and website sports department staffs? How would a more diverse staff of sports editors, columnists and reporters affect what is commonly written about in our newspapers?

“These are the key positons where decisions on what is covered, who covers it and who offers opinions on it are made,” notes Lapchick.

(Next week’s “View” might provide additional answers to Lapchick’s questions.)

If there is a sliver of positive — and this is a stretch — it’s that the number of Black women columnists in 2012 remains the same in 2014, two, and Black female sports editors jumped from three in 2012 to four in 2014.

“It remains important to have voices from different backgrounds in the media,” Lapchick points out.

This, however, flies past the two Twin Cities daily newspapers’ brain wizards — whenever an opening occurs, they switch White for White. And even if a female is hired, the skin color is the same. Where do they search? Are their hiring searches diverse or broad enough? Is the search committee diverse?

“Newspapers and websites have to broaden the searches for talented writers and editors,” says Lapchick. “Where do they advertise? What campuses do they visit? Do they include journalism students from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities?”

Wonder if either Twin Cities daily can answer these questions without stammering. The answers are visible every day.


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