How do We Fix Diversity Issues in Sports Journalism?

Unfortunately, the industry of sports journalism has become known as all-boys club and while some outlets are trying to change that perspective, not enough is being done to hire more diverse  sports newsrooms when it comes to gender and race.

It is important for sports newsrooms to hire a diverse group of people to cover sports because when it comes to sports, there are a lot of different issues and topics covered that require different perspectives. While historically sports journalism has been a field dominated by white men, some progress is being made but there needs to be room for more voices to be heard. Racially this is important because as of a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) report from 2011, about 67 percent of NFL players are black, about 77 percent of all NBA players are black and 28 percent of MLB players are latino (http://www.nabj.org/news/63862/NABJ-News-NABJ-Calls-on-Media-Companies-to-Take-Action-on-APSEs-Racial.htm). These figures are important because they highlight the fact that newsrooms should be hiring diverse staffs for the sports they cover because these sports in many cases are very racially diverse and newsrooms should be able to follow the example of the sports they cover.

The most recent edition of the Associated Press Editors (APSE) Racial and Gender Report cards (http://nebula.wsimg.com/2b640482e881dddc4dfb39e6aca52c2e?AccessKeyId=DAC3A56D8FB782449D2A&disposition=0&alloworigin=1) show that the gender diversity in sports newsrooms may actually be getting worse while these organizations are making strides when it comes to racial diversity. The study looked at the diversity of several positions at newsrooms including editors, assistant editors, reporters, columnists, and copy editors or designers. There was only one position that did not receive an F which was assistant sports editors, which received a C- and stated that about thirty percent of the assistant editors were women. Overall, the total grade for gender diversity was an F and that was attributed to the fact that only 17.9 percent of the total staffs of the news organizations that were surveyed were women. This is also the fifth consecutive year that the organizations in the APSE received an F for gender diversity.

Another major concern that came out of the report is that the vast majority of people in these positions are white males, regardless of the increasing amount of minority representation in the industry. The study found that 85 percent of editors are white and that 90 percent of editors are men, representing the group with the fewest number of women hired for that position. It is also important to note that the number of women that are working as reporters has actually decreased since the last study back in 2014.

reporters

editors

Despite the grim outlook for diversity in sports journalism overall, there are certain organizations that are working hard to promote diversity. ESPN is at the forefront when it comes to having a diverse newsroom, so much so that without their numbers, the study would paint an even darker picture of the industry as a whole. The study found that out of the 89 women that worked as assistant sports editors, 75 of them worked at ESPN, a staggering 84 percent. It also found that out of the 44 women that worked as columnists, 38 of them worked at ESPN, which represents 86 percent of the people surveyed.

While the difference in editors is especially concerning, there are some bright spots that show that sports journalism is slowly becoming more diverse among the APSE news outlets. This is made clear through looking at the assistant editors and columnists.

assistant

columnists

So where do we go from here? One suggestion comes from Richard Lapchick, the director of the APSE and the primary author of the Racial and Gender Report Card. In an interview with AP reporter Joedy McCreery (https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/study-diversity-remains-low-sports-news-departments-54883891) he said that he thinks it may be a good idea to implement a Rooney Rule equivalent to hiring sports reporters and I think that is a great starting point. On SB Nation, Adam Stites does an excellent job of explaining what the Rooney Rule is. Basically, the Rule requires teams to interview minority candidates for vacant head coach and general manager positions before filling the empty positions.

In 2003, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the man the rule is named for, spearheaded a movement to promote racial diversity in upper level positions in NFL teams after two African-American coaches, Tony Dungy and Dennis Green were fired despite having found success as coaches, following the 2002 season (https://www.sbnation.com/2018/1/6/16856550/rooney-rule-nfl-explained-how-it-works-coaches). While writing a report for ESPN about the study, Lapchick further emphasized the idea of Rooney Rule equivalent called the Ralph Wiley Rule, named after the late African-American writer (http://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/23382605/espn-leads-way-hiring-practices-sports-media).

Regardless of what happens, news organizations owe it to themselves to hire from a much more diverse pool of candidates. The news is better when we can get different perspectives and voices telling the same stories, regardless of if it is sports, politics or whatever the topic may be. If as journalists we are looking at and reporting on the flaws of other industries we have to do the same in our own and improve ourselves first.

However, things are looking up when it comes to diversity. From this clip from the show “Speak for Yourself” on Fox Sports highlights that like ESPN, other organizations are also working hard at promoting diversity with the people they hire for their on-air talent. For shows like this especially where much of the content is opinion based on current sports news, it is incredibly important to hire a diverse group of people because you are guaranteed to get people that have different opinions about the same topic, which is something sports journalism needs right now.

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