Intercepted! Sports media diversity attempts, ie. “Nieman Journalism Lab

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For the sixth year in a row, news outlets have collectively received a failing grade for gender hiring practices in sports media.

In the United States and Canada, only 19% of sports personnel positions are held by women, including 14% of reporting positions, new study finds newsletter, compiled by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. (A 30-year study recently found that most televisions completely ignore women’s sports. It is possible that these two things are related.) About 24% of staff positions in sports media are held by people of color.

The newsletter has been requested by the Associated Press Sports Editors for the seventh consecutive year. A publication in which at least 30% of its staff is owned by people of color will receive an A + and a publication in which at least 45% is owned by women will also receive top marks.

Sports media scores – an F for gender and a B + for race – reflect that the vast majority of people in key positions in sports media are white males.

“We have seen signs of progress, but it remains a major problem for women and especially women of color,” said the former president of APSE. Lisa Wilson, who acted as an advisor to the study.

The report examined more than 100 newspapers and websites in the United States and Canada, although the authors note that their requests have not always been fully met. Of 104 newspapers and websites, 72 submitted demographic information for senior management and only 23 submitted information for Web specialist positions. Some chose not to participate at all, and three news organizations declined to be specifically named in the report, asking that their information be included only in the aggregate.

This year’s newsletter found that positions held by people of color have fallen from 20% to 23.5% since last year. The percentage of women has also increased, from 17.9% to 19.3% in the past year. (The study does not mention – or appear to have asked about – non-binary or transgender people in sports media.) Overall, the year’s ratings reflect that:

  • 79.2% of sports writers are white
  • 80% of those in leadership positions are white
  • 85.6% of journalists are men

Without ESPN, the study would be darker. ESPN employs a quarter of all female sports writers. (They have five.)

“If ESPN were removed from the data entirely, the gender percentage for sports writers would decrease from 16.7% to 13.5% while columnists would decrease from 17.8% to 13.8%,” the report notes. “Without ESPN, the racial percentage of sports writers would go from 20.8% to 18.9% and assistant sports writers would go from 27.7% to 22.7%. Columnists would drop from 22.9% to 18.1%.

Among newspapers with the largest circulation, the Miami Herald had the highest percentage of people of color at 41.7% and USA Today’s fan-centric site For The Win had the highest percentage of women. at 31.3%. Among the smaller circulation newspapers, The Austin American-Statesman, Daily Memphian and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (TX) stood out with the highest percentages of people of color at 58%, 50% and 29% respectively.

Many American newspapers are shrinking, bringing with them the number of global sports media positions. Some of the industry’s diversity numbers can be counted on one hand:

  • Of the “A” size newspapers and websites – the ones with the largest circulation – Yahoo, ESPN and Miami Herald employed the only Hispanic / Latinx sports writers.
  • The New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, and ESPN employed the only Asian sports writers among the “A” publications.
  • The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Athletic, ESPN and the Sun Sentinel (FL) employed the only female sports writers among the “A’s.”

You can read the full report here.


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