Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Very few minorities run sports departments

There's a reason strong racial sterotypes remain in sports media -- especially at the most senior levels. There are few minorities in charge of daily newspapers.

Studies by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports have indicated this. A study for the Associated Press Sports Editors proved this. The numbers in the 2006 Racial and Gender Report Card are jolting.

For example, only five African-Americans run a sports department for a daily newspaper in the United States. That's 1.56 percentage. Only nine Latinos are sports editors, compared to 303 whites, according to the report, which covered more than 300 Associated Press newspapers.

Women are also under-represented. Sixteen females run sports departments (five percent), while 65 women work as assistant sports editors, compared to 446 whites and more than 500 overall for a 12.67 percentage. Numbers like this prompted the Associated Press Sports Editors to investigate ways to increase diversity in sports departments, something that led to an interesting discussion at the APSE spring convention in St. Louis last week.

"I don't see a big change in the numbers," said Garry Howard (above), sports editor and assistant managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I do see changes in the hearts of the sports editors in this room."

"We've made progress in terms of talk," said Gregory Lee, senior assistant sports editor of the Boston Globe. Only 5.27 percent of all assistants are African-American like Lee. "Today is a good step forward."

Hiring freezes at newspapers have slowed any progess. Many sports editors lamented they have lost positions; many others at the meeting said they have not been able to hire for a year or more.

"There's not a whole lot of openings, so when they do occur you need to have a good pool of candidates that include minorities," said Karen Magnuson, president of Associated Press Managing Editors as well as the editor and vice president of news at the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle.

Patricia Mayes, sports editor of The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., said senior editors have a key role in nurturing young minority journalists. "At every paper I've worked, there was always someone there to put their arm around me." Now, she is the only African-American female sports editor in the country.

Mayes said minority sports journalists can move into leadership positions, if they get involved and work hard. For example, young journalists should compile good contacts at other newspapers. "You need to know the players in the game," she said. Second, minority journalists need to work twice as hard, she said, and be twice as good. Third, she asked all editors to have an open mind. "We're not asking people to dilute the talent paper," Mayes said. "We just want you to make the effort."

APSE is going to focus more on grass roots efforts that include working with local high schools, and connecting more with university journalism departments and state journalism organizations.

"Diversity is hard work," said Jorge Rojas, the Miami Herald's sports editor and the APSE's diversity chair. "You need to identify, interview, hire and retain. It's not easily solved. It's a long-term battle."

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