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Sept. 28, 2021, 10:12 a.m.

For the sixth consecutive year, news organizations collectively received a failing grade for gender hiring practices in sports media.

Just 19% of sports staff positions in the United States and Canada are held by women, including 14% of reporting positions, according to a new report card, compiled by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport in the University of Central Florida. (A 30-year study recently found that most TV completely ignores women’s sports. It’s possible those two things are related.) About 24% of staff positions in sports media are held by people of color.

The report card was requested by the Associated Press Sports Editors for the seventh straight year. A publication with at least 30% of its staff held by people of color would receive an A+ and one with at least 45% held by women would also receive top marks.

The grades sports media actually got — an F for gender and B+ on race — reflect that the vast majority of people in key sports media positions are white men.

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

The report looked at more than 100 newspapers and websites in the United States and Canada, though the authors note their requests weren’t always met in full. Out of 104 newspapers and websites, 72 submitted demographic information for upper management and only 23 submitted information for web specialist positions. Some chose not to participate at all, and three news orgs declined to be specifically named in the report, asking that their information be included only in the aggregate.

This year’s report card found that staff positions held by people of color increased from 20% to 23.5% since last year. The percentage of women also moved up — going from 17.9% to 19.3% over the last year. (The study does not mention — or appear to have asked about — nonbinary or transgender people in sports media.) Overall, the year’s grades reflect that:

  • 79.2% of sports editors are white
  • 80% of those holding upper management positions are white
  • 85.6% of reporters are men

Without ESPN, the study would be more grim. ESPN employs a quarter of all of the women sports editors. (They have five.)

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

Among newspapers with the largest circulations, 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 newspapers with smaller circulations, 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 of America’s newspapers are shrinking, taking the number of overall sports media positions down with ’em. Some of the industry’s diversity numbers can be counted on just one hand:

  • Among the “A” size newspapers and websites — the ones with the largest circulation — Yahoo, ESPN and Miami Herald employed the only Hispanic/Latinx sports editors.
  • The New York Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, and ESPN employed the only Asian sports editors among “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 editors among “A” outlets.

You can read the full report here.

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