So Much For Diversity

By Mark Fitzgerald
Updated: June 27, 2008

CHICAGO — Newspaper sports departments remain nearly all white and male — and progress towards diversity is painfully slow, concludes a “report card” on sports staffing released Thursday at the annual meeting of Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE).

The report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) surveyed 378 APSE member newspapers and Web sites, and said they had earned a “C” for “racial hiring practices,” and an “F” for gender hiring practices.

“This report shows that in 2008, 94% of the sports editors; 89% of the assistant sports editors; 88% of our columnists; 87% of our reporters; and 89% of our copy editors/designers are white, and those same positions are 94%, 90%, 94%, 91%, and 84% male,” wrote Richard Lapchick, director of TIDES, which is housed at the University of Central Florida.

This was the second time TIDES studied sports staffing diversity for APSE. The previous study in 2006 did not assign report card grades.

The biggest change since 2006 was an increase in the percentage of African-American sports columnists to 10.7% from 7.4%, the report found.

“This is the second time the media has turned the mirror on itself,” Lapchick said. “And once again, APSE newspapers saw how little progress they had made regarding representation of women and people of color in their key positions where decisions on what is covered, who covers it, and who offers opinions on it are made. I have to credit APSE for having the courage to replicate the study so there will continue to be real transparency.”

John Cherwa, the Orlando Sentinel’s sports projects editor who also serves as Tribune Co. sports coordinator, said the downsizing of newspaper staffs has had a significant effect on hiring.

“For example, if you look at the figures for and its columnists, you’ll see great numbers,” Cherwa said in the report’s executive summary. “Now, take into account that the Web definition of a columnist and the traditional newspaper columnist definition differ quite a bit. But, where did those columnists come from? Newspapers. Were the newspapers allowed to fill those positions? Not usually.”

Despite the widespread hiring freezes “the diversification of America’s newspapers and Web sites should remain one of our top priorities,” he added. “Let’s hope the business sees its bottom very soon, and let’s hope we do the study again in two years, and let’s hope the meter can start ticking back in the right direction.”

Among the largest circulation dailies, The Sacramento Bee had the highest percentage of sports journalists of color, with 52.6%.

At the next level of circulation, The Honolulu Advertiser had the highest percentage of people of color in its sports department, with 82.6%. In a smaller level of circ, the El Paso (Texas) Times led with 55.6% of its sports journalists being of color. At the smallest-sized paper, the Selma (Ala.) Times-Journal and the Herald-Zeitung in Texas, each had a person of color as its one-person sports staff.

The Sporting News, based in St. Louis, had the most women sports journalists among big-circulation papers with 35.7%. In the next categories came the Honolulu Advertiser with 39.1%, The Reno Gazette-Journal with 45.5%, and The Middletown (Conn.) Press, where a female is one of its two sports journalists.