Sports radio has been and still is virtually all White and male, a seemingly impenetrable White wall built on cultural conditioning apparently decreeing that White voices are superior to those of Blacks, women, and other people of color.
Last month’s cover story in a local alternative weekly was on KFXN-FM, the Cities’ longest running sports station, which this columnist long ago stopped listening to, calling it the “Klan” for its persistent Whiteness. The story buried in the jump pages stated the obvious: “Noticeably absent from The Fan: women and people of color,” it said. The station manager remarked, “We’re just trying to represent the Twin Cities the best we can…”
Although KFXN ranks among America’s top-performing sports stations, its primarily White male audience “[is] not very diverse,” said a Nielsen VP of audience insights in Inside Radio last year. Like the legendary Daffy Duck’s response to frustration, all we can do is laugh at such vanilla-dominant programming.
Before it became The Fan, it was WDGY-AM, which became a news-talk station in 1989 before going all-sports in 1991 and changing call letters. The late Mel Riley was its first Black drive-time co-host, who eventually was pushed to the shadows and then later out the door. A Black female was once hired as a reporter but became a layoff victim while the station happily promoted Michele Tafoya, who went on to national fame.
Minneapolis-born Henry Lake was there, then left to host middays at a Kansas City sports station; he returned to KFXN last fall. But in both stints, Lake’s talents were underutilized. Last week, WCCO, “the Good Neighbor,” announced he will host weeknights (9 pm-1 am) beginning March 11.
“WCCO believes in me and my talent to help them move forward in freshening up their brand,” Lake told me in an exclusive interview last weekend. “I truly thank all of the folks out there that have supported me throughout the years. I know that I represent a segment of the population whose voices and opinions aren’t always heard. I take that seriously.”
Besides Lake, there are others, such as Lea B. Olsen, who can talk sports and run circles around the current group at the klan but were born with the wrong skin color. “I’ve been taught you have to work twice as hard to get noticed,” North Carolina-based Jannelle Moore told us via phone last week. She is a regular on SB Nation, among others, as a basketball writer, but she wants to do more.
“I’ve been freelancing ever since I left [college],” Moore lamented. She shared a couple of failed attempts to break through that White wall of resistance. “When I was younger, I interned for my hometown newspaper before going to college. Years later, I got an interview [for a full-time job]…
“The managing editor asked, ‘So what’re you doing these days?’ It was a formality, and eventually [I got] passed up by a woman with no journalism experience.” The managing editor told her that the latter was a better “fit,” Moore recalled.
“When I applied for a production assistant position at my ABC affiliate, a producer spent most of the interview telling me how “thankless” the position is… This was an entry-level position,” Moore continued.
Starting next week, Lake becomes the only Black weeknight host on local mainstream radio at WCCO. “We have to continue to diversify our media,” he said. “I’m just one of many talented minorities in this town.” Moore continues working, waiting for her opportunity. “[I am] always begging some editor to give me a chance,” she said. “Why must I jump through hoops like a seal at Sea World just to get noticed? It bothers me.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com