A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Even In The Black Sports Media World, Those Who Arenï¿½t Looking Donï¿½t See Diversity
ï¿½Greg, take a look at Page 2 on ESPN.com. Seems Scoop has sort of jumped on your bandwagon about that APSE report story you did for BASN back in June. Some of it sounds eerily familiar,ï¿½ my friend told via a cell phone call.
What was interesting was that just a day later, while going through my e-mails and story idea sort lists, I saw in my e-mail copy of Howard Bloomï¿½s Sports Business Newsï¿½ Daily Dose and I see not one but two entries for Jason Whitlockï¿½s column he wrote for the Kansas City Star.
If you are not familiar about what Scoop, Whitlock or myself are referring to, it is a near damning report that the Associated Press Sports Editors had done by the renowned Dr. Richard Lapchick. I wrote about the study on June 24th of this year and you can read about what I had to say at http://www.blackathlete.net/artman/publish/article_02033.shtml.
Now whatï¿½s ironic is that almost a full month after I wrote this piece on the BASN website, both Jackson and Whitlock gets national attention for their ï¿½outspokenï¿½ comments on the lack of diversity.
Well here is where it is time to turn over a little known rock on what is discussed amongst Black sports writers and Black journalists in general; this diversity problem exists because even Black journalists donï¿½t necessarily know where to look.
I donï¿½t want to take anything away from Whitlockï¿½s or Jacksonï¿½s article because both writers make some valid points. From Jasonï¿½s standpoint as a minority writer at a predominately Caucasian paper, it probably is frustrating as hell to try and get a story out that is appealing to a smaller reader segment.
Sometimes you just donï¿½t want to write for the majority. With Scoop, I definitely can agree with him on the fact that maybe our young Black kids donï¿½t know of the sports writers who ARE NOT on ESPN. Iï¿½ll even poke at my own self in that regards.
Prior to my first appearance on ESPNï¿½s Outside the Lines in May of 2005 and the half a dozen appearances on the ï¿½Hot Listï¿½ since then, nobody knew who I was, what Blackathlete.net was or that a small African American weekly newspaper like the San Antonio Informer even existed.
Do I feel fortunate in the exposure provided by Mickey and company? Sure I do but I canï¿½t complain. However Iï¿½m not going to sit here at a keyboard and say that I donï¿½t wish for things to better for every sports journalist who is of color. Diversity is an issue that needs to be addressed and somebody is trying to ring the bell on that tabooed subject.
TOPIC ONLY DISCUSSED AT A CONVENTION SETTING Even though the diversity discussion that has come about from Dr. Lapchickï¿½s study and the admittance by the APSE, thereï¿½s an aspect of this discussion that Whitlock and Scoop fail to make mention to the public.
Amongst Black journalists, this conversation only truly gets discussed in a certain venue and that is the annual National Association of Black Journalist convention. This yearï¿½s convention is being held in Indianapolis, Indiana and according to the groupï¿½s website, there are several workshops that will be held at the convention that hit on the diversity topic.
Some of the tentative workshops are: Role of Minority Journalists in Integrating Motorsports, Black Ownership in Radio: Why it Matters Who is in Charge, Closing the Head-Coaching Gap in College Football and Womenï¿½s Basketball, Growing Our Own, Building a Stronger Black Press, Black Women in the Newsroom: Stomping Out the Stereotype and Are We Running From Behind (go to http://nabj.org/conventions/2006/workshops/index.html and scroll the list of workshop topics for a greater topic understanding of what these workshops will talk about).
These discussion workshops are not uncommon at an NABJ event and there is always at least one frank discussion on why there are not more African Americans in the newsroom.
In relation to the sports genre, I have always surmised that one of the biggest reasons why there are not more of ï¿½usï¿½ being heard or read is because the more conventional Black journalists out there (the folks who are on TV or work for the big daily newspapers) are not looking to help the cause.
Yes, consider this the calling out of many journalists afraid to venture outside the box and actually talk to that Black journalist you see from the Washington Informer at a Washington Redskins game.
Yes, Iï¿½m calling out those who figure that a person who writes for a small Black newspaper like the Long Beach Times, the Dallas Examiner or the Seattle Medium.
Yes, when a beat writer from a big newspaper sees another Black reporter at a sporting event, Iï¿½m saying that it is only right and proper to introduce yourself to that individual and find out what publication that person writes for.
Yes, I am saying that is time for even the NABJ to finally recognize that collectively, members and non-members of the Black press are systematically not doing the job of making the Caucasian led senior management of the industry to look beyond their window and reach out to the talent that is out there.
The small, maybe inconsequential Black publication is out there doing the same thing that a Kansas City Star, LA Times or Seattle Post Intelligence is doing and that is covering the world of sports.
THE UGLY TRUTH THAT BLACK ATHLETES WANT BLACK REPRESENTATION Thereï¿½s another ugly little truth that nobody really wants to acknowledge and itï¿½s probably worse than the fact that the Black media is not helping its cause fully in the diversity issue. The other ugly truth is that many Black athletes want to see Black reporters covering them.
Yes, Iï¿½m saying the other dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about. The reason why Iï¿½m saying this now is because you canï¿½t talk about diversity and a lack of having qualified journalists in a newsroom without realizing the aspects that even in todayï¿½s sophisticated society, people of ethnicity feel more comfortable talking to someone of like resemblance and sometimes that is even on racial terms.
Many members in the Black media may disagree with me on this statement but I can only go on personal observations. In the dozen years of covering the NBA and other sports where African Americans are a major part of the scene, I have been able to build relationships with some players who were African American because they saw a Black reporter taking the time to just talk to them.
A good example of such a relationship is with Jaren Jackson. When Jackson was a member of the San Antonio Spurs, at the beginning of the season I introduced myself. When he asked whom I wrote for, his eyes lit up and asked me to make sure he got a copy of my African American publication.
There was a friend of mine who was writing for another Black paper standing with me and he was nearly ecstatic and asked her to make sure he got a copy of her paper as well. So just about every week until he left the team, Jaren got two weekly Black newspapers in his locker.
As trivial as the example may be or as inconsequential the argument may seem, the fact that continues to remain that for many African Americans, they want to see Black sports journalists covering them.
Many news outlets understand that aspect of the diversity issue because the stories that they receive, the commentaries that are written or the prose that is said on the airwaves brings in a new demographic or increases the size of an existing one.
The diversity issue, as a whole, doesnï¿½t just apply here to Black reporters and journalists but the Black journalist is actually the minority in a world where African Americans may be the majority.
That world is sports.
CHANGE NEEDS TO START WITHIN THE BLACK MEDIA’S PERSPECTIVE Sure the world isnï¿½t perfect and Lord knows that things should be better. It would be nice that instead of having all of these journalist organizations in the world that one group be represented.
Yet that is exactly why there are five different journalist groups for minorities; because one group does not represent another group in proper fashion. If the world was perfect, there would be no need for a diversity study by Dr. Lapchick to show the sports editors in the daily newsrooms what they see on a daily basis.
For the APSE to say that they didnï¿½t know that they had a problem is definitely a disingenuous statement and a slap in the face to every working journalist who is out there in the real world.
Yet journalists like myself, Scoop, Jason or others canï¿½t be crying foul every time we feel that our people are not getting proper media coverage when we are not out there actively recruiting fresh new talent.
In order for this diversity issue to truly be remedied, it will mean that even the Black media needs to recognize that sometimes we are as guilty of being a bunch of snobs to our own people. Luckily those cases are few and far between but it is still something that needs to be changed.
As successful as Cathy Hughesï¿½ Radio One may be, the fact that even this entity needs to have a viable sports talk show that is informative, reliable and gives the target audience substance that co-exists with the other forms of mediums they may gather.
It is really the job of the Black journalist to not just report the facts to the general populous, but for many it is also the task to educate their own community and be the beacon of hope for those who may want to come forth and get into this professional field.
NABJ was founded in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 1975 by 44 men and women, many who were just starting out in their careers. Undoubtedly the reason why this organization was founded was to help promote diversity in the media field.
Surely some 31 years later this group shouldnï¿½t be having the same ï¿½discussionï¿½ about diversity that the founding members talked about on that eventful day. However it may seem to be that is what is happening. That has got to stop. The re-hashing of the dead horse isnï¿½t gong to solve the issues being raised.
When it comes to Blacks and the sports journalism field however, things can be changed by the acceptance that it takes a collective effort for the mainstream writers to help the not so mainstream colleagues to get noticed.
Sad to say but if Scoop, Jason, Stephen A. or a few others that I know asked me to name as many Black sports writers/columnists, Iï¿½d flunk the test too. Itï¿½s not that I donï¿½t know about them but because as a media ï¿½fraternityï¿½, we donï¿½t communicate. Maybe thatï¿½s the other end of the problem too.
A lack of communication can definitely stall a worthy issue that needs a solution. But with that said, there is some diversity where many think there is none. It just takes some effort turning over those moldy rocks in the journalism pond and stroking the frogs up under there into becoming the princes that everyone wants to hear from.