Study: Diversity lacking in newspaper sports staffs

Updated: June 22, 2006, 10:15 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- The staffs of newspaper sports sections are dominated -- and usually headed -- by white men, according to a study that shows women have yet to make big inroads in a traditionally male field.

The survey of 305 newspapers of varying circulation also showed sports sections lagging in employment of minorities, with blacks holding 6.2 percent of jobs among an overall minority representation of 12 percent.

Bigger newspapers tend to hire more women and minorities than smaller papers, but study director Richard Lapchick said the overall rate was dismal.

"Normally we assign a grade in these reports and this is the first time we didn't do that,'' said Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. "But in each one of those categories we would be in the F category for people of color and female representation.''

Garry D. Howard, assistant managing editor/sports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said the results are discouraging and show the industry has a long way to go to reflect the makeup of both society and its readers.

"Obviously I think we've had a problem in our industry for some time,'' Howard said. "We constantly point the camera at sports we cover where everyone has a problem and we never take the camera and point it at ourselves. I think this report has done just that.''

The survey showed that nine out of 10 sports editors were white males, as were 84 percent of sports columnists.

Women made up 12.6 percent of sports staffs, in contrast to another report earlier this year by the American Society of Newspapers that showed women making up a total of 37.7 percent of newsrooms overall.

"I was more surprised on how few women there were in all those ranks, especially considering that 40 percent of participants in athletics in high school and college are women,'' Lapchick said.

The survey covered more than 5,100 positions on sports staffs and was part of a project for a class on the business of sports media taught by John Cherwa, sports projects editor for the Orlando Sentinel and sports coordinator for Tribune Co.

Cherwa said he would like the survey done every few years so newspapers can chart progress.

"We didn't know how bad we were,'' Cherwa said. "We knew we were bad, and now we know how bad we are. At least we've now got a baseline, something we can move forward with.''

Howard, one of five black sports editors included in the survey, said he was the only one he knew when the Milwaukee paper named him to the post in 1994. Since then, he said, there has been some progress, but not enough.

"People of color and women can hold these jobs and flourish in these jobs,'' he said.

Lapchick, who has done similar surveys for pro sports leagues and colleges, did the study at the request of the Associated Press Sports Editors, a group of sports editors from around the country. The results were presented Thursday to the APSE annual convention in Las Vegas.

The fact the sports editors themselves asked for the survey, Lapchick said, means they are serious about the issue.

"This is the first time that any organization has ever requested a look at itself,'' Lapchick said. "I think that's an incredibly healthy sign.''

Among newspapers surveyed, the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee had the highest percentage of minorities among the largest papers at 54 percent, while the Fresno (Calif.) Bee was tops among size "B'' newspapers at 45 percent. The Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat was highest in the "C'' circulation category at 36 percent, while the Laredo (Texas) Morning Times was best among the smallest papers with minorities occupied all five of its staff slots.

The Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel sports staff was 24 percent women, the highest of the big newspapers, while the Columbia (S.C.) State was tops with 29.6 percent in the "B'' category. The Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times led size "C'' with 29.4 percent, while the Iowa City Press-Citizen had 44 percent women in the "D'' category.

The Southwest Region of the APSE had the best record for sports editors who were people of color with 9.1 percent, while the Northwest region had the most female sports editors at 11.8 percent. The Associated Press was included in the Northeast Region, where 6 percent of sports editors were women and 4 percent were minorities. The Mid-Atlantic Region reported the lowest percentage of any region with only 2.4 percent of its sports editors minorities and no women sports editors.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press