A changeless ‘dark cloud’ hangs over sports media

Racial and gender diversity remain stuck on stupid

First of a two-part column


The 2018 Associated Press Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card sadly shows little progress for Blacks in key positions over the last three years.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) earlier this month published its sixth report card for the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) to measure any changes in racial and gender hiring practices from the 2014 study. Over 75 newspapers and websites were evaluated — collectively earning a B for racial hiring and a fifth consecutive F for gender hiring. The combined D-plus is the lowest such grade of all the reports TIDES has issued.

“While there has been improvement, there hasn’t been enough to measure the dark cloud over the sports media,” TIDES Director Richard Lapchick said in an MSR phone interview.

The dark cloud definitely has hovered over the two Twin Cities dailies, where the number of Black sportswriters combined can be counted on one hand. This legacy newspaper, the MSR, has for over three decades had far more columnists of color than the Star Tribune (zero) and the St. Paul Pioneer Press (also zero).

Apparently both papers don’t subscribe to APSE past President John Cherwa’s contention that mainstream sports newsrooms need to be more diverse. “The numbers remain basically the same,” he said in the report. “Change seems to be glacial.”

Richard Lapchick
Richard Lapchick Charles Hallman/MSR News

The editor is the person who assigns stories; the columnist’s opinions influence sports fans; and the reporters cover games and do interviews. However, “The vast majority of people holding key positions on the major newspapers and media websites…are White and male” — 85 percent of sports editors, 80 percent of columnists, and 82 percent of reporters. To be specific:

Sports editors: four Black males and zero Black females (2017), compared to six Black men and four Black women in the same roles in 2014. Columnists: 27 Black men and four Black females (2017), whereas in 2014 there were 40 Black males and two Black females. Reporters:  44 Black men and four Black females in 2017, compared to 40 Black men and six Black females in 2014.

“The survey statistics unfortunately remain alarming and continue to underscore APSE’s urgent need to improve in this area,” said APSE President Jeff Rosen in the report. “It really does start with each one of us already in the field. I’m challenging my fellow sports editors and managers and directors to broaden every search for job candidates…”

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

He told me, “Increasing diversity and inclusion is going to make us a better-informed public because the stories will be broader and more accurate. If you are a woman interviewing a female athlete, the chances of that athlete opening up and going deeper or stronger, as well as an African American columnist interviewing an African American athlete, the chances of them being willing and…more authentic, the odds are certainly better.

“People of color also come with a different perspective in terms of what questions to ask or portraying a situation,” Lapchick stressed. He still proposes a “Ralph Wiley Rule” named for the late Black writer, author and commentator. “The Wiley Rule would be like the Rooney Rule in the NFL and would ask for a diverse pool of candidates, including people of color and women, for each opening of these key positions,” he pointed out in the report’s executive summary.

If it wasn’t for ESPN, especially “The Undefeated,” their website on race and sport, sports media diversity would be even worse, Lapchick reported.


Next: More on ESPN’s diversity leadership and “The Undefeated.”