A historic snapshot in time—Black female sports reporters at work. Captured on social media were six sistahs: Terrika Foster-Brasby and LaChina Robinson co-hosting a weekly ESPN podcast; Maya Jones, an associate editor at The Undefeated; Arielle (Ari) Chambers of Bleacher Report; SLAM’s Camille Buxeda; and Meghan McPeak, the first female NBA G-League play-by-play announcer covering the WNBA Finals.
“I looked at Ari and I was sitting next to Maya,” Foster-Brasby recalled. “Soon we saw LaChina sit down and we said, “Oh, snap, this is official Black Girl press row.”
Foster-Brasby added, “I love literally sitting alongside some of the most talented melanin magical sisters in women’s basketball media…, sports media period.”
The photograph reminded me of the 1958 iconic photo of 57 legendary jazz musicians standing in front of an apartment building, “A Great Day in Harlem.” But it also painfully recalls how the U.S. sports media still lacks full diversity.
According to the 2018 AP Sports Editors Report Card, Black women reporters (0.8 percent) and Black reporters overall (8.9 percent) have been in low single digits since 2010, the first year The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) was hired to report on newspapers’ and websites’ diversity.
“I think they can fix it but aren’t willing to try,” multimedia sports journalist Jashvina Shah declared on media that continue to be mostly run by White males. The 2013 Boston University graduate has covered men’s and women’s hockey and women’s lacrosse, among other sports, both for radio and online. She has written over 600 stories for her own website.
Yet, Shah still is searching for a full-time sports journalism gig.
Texas Tech University’s Center for Communications Research found that about 82 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients are employed in communications—just over 17 percent as journalists. “It’s tough,” Shah told me.
During our phone conversation, she alternated from sheer defiance to benign anger to guarded optimism. “It’s really hard, and harder for people of color,” she explained. “I feel we are still in that age that people expect you to work or do things for free. I covered hockey for free, and did it for three years.”
Shah, while in college, dealt with the typical discouraging obstacles that most Blacks and other people of color often face while studying for a journalism degree. “I remember going to school and everyone was [saying] you are not going to get a job in journalism.”
But she’s still at it, looking to join the six sistahs at the W Finals and countless others who are doing it as sports journalists, whether they are recognized or not. “The people who are getting hired are the same type of people [who are doing the hiring],” Shah noted. “They say they are going to hire new talent, and usually the talent is White.”
Shah recently submitted a published work for consideration in “The Great American Sportswriting” annual edition—she wrote about racism in sports. “I am surprised that I made that list” of 70-100 submissions that are looked at, hoping to make the final cut to 25 to 30 pieces for the edition.
Diversity should be more of an action verb rather than some noun without true commitment, Shah concluded. “They [sports editors] don’t actually support people of color. [But] I’m going to make it.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.