The sexism and ageism at the center of Pam Oliver’s departure from her NFL sideline reporting gig still has folks wagging fingers at Fox Sports (here, here, and here). It’s a sure sign that her replacement, Erin Andrews, will no doubt have a tough time filling Oliver’s shoes.
One of the reasons there is still such an uproar over Oliver’s new job responsibilities is due to the dearth of black sports journalists at US media organizations, and even fewer black female sports journalists with Oliver’s credentials and profile.
In 2006 ESPN’s Scoop Jackson noted a research project conducted by the Associated Press Sports Editors that found that just four of the 305 newspapers it surveyed had a black sports editor. The same study, from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, found that whites make up 94 percent of sports editors, 89 percent of assistant sports editors, 88 percent of sports columnists, and 87 percent of sports reporters. By 2012, Travis Waldron reported in an article for ThinkProgress.org, the dearth was starting to change, “thanks to more prominent roles for black reporters on television (think ESPN’s Steven A. Smith, Bomani Jones, Michael Wilbon, and J.A. Adande…”
And, many would argue, Pam Oliver.
A year later, very little had in fact changed. In 2012 APSE graded newspapers and websites a C+ for racial hiring practices, and an F for gender hiring practices.
Of the 35 women who were columnists at the largest newspapers and websites of 175,000 or more in 2013, 23 worked for ESPN, reported Richard E. Lapchick for Sports Business Daily.com. “If the ESPN columnists were removed, the percentage of female columnists at this level would drop from 13 percent to 5 percent.
“When we did the study in 2006, Jemele Hill, then a columnist at the Orlando Sentinel, was the only African-American woman columnist in America. Seven years later, Hill is at ESPN, and Shannon Owens, the woman who replaced her at the Sentinel, is the only other female columnist of color,” Lapchick wrote.
Today Owens is no longer a columnist at the Orlando Sentinel; there are zero black female sports columnists working for large newspapers.
“We have a long way to go before women and people of color are fairly represented in our major newspapers and dot-coms,” Lapchick continued. “As we wait for that day to come, I have to wonder how many great stories we’ve missed covering, how many we might have covered better and how many we would have had a completely different take on were things different.”
Currently there are only four black sports editors at US daily newspapers/websites, according to Greg Lee, executive sports editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and immediate past president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Besides Lee, the other sports editors include: Marcus Camouche who is sports manager at NOLA.com; Larry Graham is executive sports editor at The San Diego Union-Tribune; Roy Johnson, Director of Sports for Alabama Media Group (AL.com) and Lisa Wilson, sports editor at The Buffalo News.
That’s one black female, in case you’re keeping count, and that’s also little to no progress since 2006. “There is no excuse for the lack of black women as sports columnists and sports editors in America’s newspapers,” said Lee. “As managers we have to do a better job with cultivating these talented women and put them in positions to succeed. I hope to see one day that Newsday New York Jets reporter Kimberley Martin becomes a columnist. I hope to see one day that Baltimore Sun Baltimore Ravens editor Monique Jones become a sports editor. I hope to see Tallahassee Democrat Florida State reporter Natalie Pierre gets her chance to shine on the big stage. We also have to do a better job with cultivating all of the female journalists of color. We are doing our part with the Sports Journalism Institute to infuse the industry with more talent, but we need to get more in the pipeline and do it faster.”
All Digitocracy doesn’t have much to add to what’s already been said and written about Oliver’s re-assignment or the dismally low level of diversity in sports media, particularly when it comes to women of color. But we do want to highlight a snazzy, informative graphic on a piece about Oliver and other black women who have covered sports on air and behind the scenes from the 1940’s to the present. The infographic, titled “She’s Got Game: Pam Oliver and Other Black Women Who Know the Score,” was produced by Fierce For Black Women.com and republished here with permission from the owner.