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Newspapers, websites lacking diversity in sports departments

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | 9:15 p.m. CDT

ORLANDO, Fla. — Some 320 websites and newspapers that belong to Associated Press Sports Editors slightly improved their racial hiring practices last year, according to a study released Wednesday, though they failed again to make any strides in gender hiring for key newsroom positions.

The report, released every two years by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, gave those outlets a C plus, up from a C in 2008, for racial hires and an F for gender hires in jobs including sports editor, columnist, reporter and copy editor.

This is the third report that has been done for Associated Press Sports Editors since 2006.

Overall, it said, sports departments were still being led mostly by white men.

"When survival is at stake, like it is for so many places, I think the danger is that things that will be of long-term importance are less of a priority than say, keeping the economy of a newspaper going," said the study's primary author, Richard Lapchick. "I think it happens in all kinds of businesses ... The old saying of last hired, first fired is still too much at play."

Lapchick said perhaps the worst news from the study was that the percentage of sports editors who were women or people of color fell 2.3 percentage points from 11.7 percent in 2008 to 9.42 percent in 2010. White males increased by 3 percentage points for sports editors.

The report showed that 97 percent of the sports editors at these newspapers and websites in 2010 were white, and 94 percent of sports editors overall were men. Just 5.5 percent of sports staffs are black men and 3 percent Latino men. Only 11.4 percent are women.

Latino and Asian men increased by an average 0.54 percent in all categories covered, except sports editors. Latino men's biggest gain was in assistant sports editors (1.03 percent) and Asian men saw the largest gain in columnists (0.66 percent).

ESPN formed a substantial part of the totals for sports editors and columnists both in racial and gender categories. It has two African-American sports editors and 23 African-American men and women columnists. Those figures represented more than 20 percent of the sports editors and half of the 41 columnists of color at newspapers with at least 250,000 circulations.

Lapchick urged Associated Press Sports Editors to adopt a "Ralph Wiley Rule," after the late African-American sports writer. It would be akin to the NFL's Rooney Rule, which calls for a diverse pool of candidates to be considered for all key vacancies.

"I am also encouraged that APSE has continued to request the report knowing that the news would not be good," Lapchick said. "I applaud its determination to get better."

Phil Kaplan, sports editor at the Knoxville News Sentinel, whose term as Associated Press Sports Editors' president ends in June, said that while he applauds Lapchick's call, he isn't sure that it would be something the organization could mandate.

"I haven't discussed it with anyone yet, but it would be difficult to enforce," Kaplan said. "Our organization always wants to encourage diversity in newsrooms. There's no issues with that. But I don't know as a group if we could enforce that because of the corporate ties of many of our members."

Michael Anastasi, managing editor for Sports at the Salt Lake City Tribune, the organization's incoming president, said the organization has already implemented several initiatives aimed at fostering diversity in a changing media climate.

Earlier this month Anastasi participated in a panel discussion along with members of the Association for Women in Sports Media at the National Sports Journalism Center in Indianapolis.

"I am encouraged," said Amy Moritz, president of the Association for Women in Sports Media. "We've had good conversations and exchanges about ideas about how our organizations can work together and increase opportunities in sports departments, and particularly in management positions. That's one of the key areas — getting diverse people in the decision making positions. I'm encouraged by the commitment and that other people are taking it seriously."


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