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Sports Departments Lacking in Diversity

Times Staff Writer

In a study of the racial and gender makeup of sports departments in the nation’s newspapers, the dominant number of white men was described as “startling” by the study’s author.

“I expected it to be pretty bleak, and it certainly was,” said Richard Lapchick, founder and director of the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sports Business Management’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

Lapchick’s team of graduate students found in studying the 5,100-employee makeup of 303 sports departments that 94.7% of sports editors, 89.9% of columnists and 87.4% of reporters are white. The study also showed that 95% of the editors, 93% of the columnists and 90% of the reporters are male. Similar percentages were found in the positions of assistant sports editors and copy editors.

The report, the first of its kind, was released Thursday at the Associated Press Sports Editors’ convention in Las Vegas. It was requested last year by the APSE board. Lapchick, who compiles similar reports on professional sports leagues and the NCAA, said this was his first such report requested by the organization studied.

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“We hope they’ll be looking at this as a tool by which to expand who will be hired in the future, to better represent the workforce and the athletes they are covering,” Lapchick said, noting that women make up 40% of the country’s workforce, that minorities constitute more than 37%, that black athletes dominate the NFL and NBA, and that Latinos have a strong presence in baseball and soccer.

John Cherwa, sports projects editor of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel and sports coordinator for Tribune Co., said the report was important to “establish a baseline, a point from which we can measure our progress.”

Among papers with circulation of more than 250,000, the Sacramento Bee has the most diverse sports staff, according to the study. The Times’ diversity percentage of 18.57% ranks it near the middle of the 303 newspapers, said report contributor Jenny Brenden.

Lapchick suggested expanded hiring practices, diversity management training, and the creation of minority- and female-specific sports journalism programs.

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