What Diversity?: I’m In The White Business

By Norman Chad
Updated: July 3, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This just in: The Associated Press Sports Editors, a group of sports editors from around the nation, commissioned a study to see how diverse newspaper sports staffs are, and, well . . .

We’re whiter than Newt Gingrich’s Fourth of July barbecue.

In particular, the sports editors themselves are distinctly men of non-color.

In fact, there might not be a less diversified group of paunchy, balding, middle-aged white guys anywhere in America.

Incidentally — this also just in — there aren’t too many women running sports departments, either. Frankly, you’ve got a better chance of becoming a sports editor if you are a pink carnation than if you are black and female.

The study’s director, Richard Lapchick of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida, surveyed 305 newspapers, of which four had black sports editors. Lapchick unveiled these numbers at the recent APSE convention to a group of, well, mostly white sports editors.

(The APSE convention was held in Las Vegas, prompting the nation’s largest escort fleet to work double shifts. Las Vegas marketing slogan: “What happens here, stays here.” APSE version: “What happens here, stays here — and we’ll expense it!!!”)

(I know I shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds me, but what the heck, if I’ve got to go back to microwaving spam for dinner, so be it.)

Uh, four out of 305? That sounds like Gilbert Gottfried’s hit rate at a singles bar. Four African American sports editors? Are you trying to tell me that, in all of America — which has almost 300 million living souls — there are only four black people who can say, “Yeah, we need two credentials for the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic?”

I actually know one of them pretty well — Garry D. Howard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which carries my column.

I noticed Howard was black the first time we met, largely because of his skin color. But once I got by that — and it did take me a while to get by that, because when someone is that dark, it just throws you — I realized he spoke English somewhat satisfactorily, understood sports and journalism reasonably well and could eat an entire meal without spitting out his food.

There’s got to be more of him out there somewhere.

But for some reason, newspapers — which flash a critical light on every other industry that lags in diversity — usually aren’t looking for black people, or claim they can’t locate them. It might help if, say, they went into a black neighborhood once in a while. As a rule, that’s where you’ll find black people.

“It’s 2006, it’s supposed to be a lot better,” Howard said. “It’s at the point where it’s embarrassing. But if they’re so embarrassed, they would do something to change it. . . . The same people are doing the hiring and they’re not looking for anything different than they’ve done in the past.”

(I sure hope I’m not misquoting Howard, because if I am, by next week my column is out and NASCAR Sudoku is in.)

(By the way, it’s not just sports editors that are all white. Sports columnists, too. Most every other columnist looks like me, which is not a good thing on many levels.)

Anyway, how do you solve this problem?

I’ve heard the arguments over the years — “we can’t find qualified minority candidates blah blah blah.” Oh, really? Well I’ve read your sports pages and you’re certainly finding unqualified non -minority candidates. So how hard is it to find unqualified minority candidates?

They freed the slaves in 1863 — I’m sure it was in all the papers — so these people, from what I understand, are FREE to work. Even in managerial positions.

So I stand here today — actually, I’m sitting — asking newspaper powers-that-be to take a chance on a black person as a sports editor. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen — circulation declines?