Monday, May 21, 2007

It's Hard Enough Being a Blogger

There was forum on the Black athlete held at Morehouse College a couple of weeks ago. Spike Lee hosted it. Athletes like Jim Brown and Alonzo Mourning attended. So did writers like Gene Wojciechowski and Stephen A. Smith. Jason Whitlock, who was in attendance and self aware enough to notice that the forum focused too much on him, but then wrote a column covering the forum that was all about himself.

But the point of the forum has been largely missed in the post event coverage.

The purpose of the forum was to inaugurate the new sports journalism program at Morehouse College. Spike Lee raised a $1 million to endow a program of study at his alma mater that would hopefully encourage more Black students to pursue careers in sports journalism. The idea being that sports coverage would be more balanced if there was a more diverse group covering the people that play it.

I’m not going to make excuses for the Pacmans of the world, Tank Johnson and those guys.

I just think, historically, the black athlete has been demonized. If we can get our graduates into these positions with newspapers, magazines and television stations ... hopefully we’ll get a more balanced view.”

Amen to that, Spike. I've said it before and I'll say it again - hence the title of this blog.

Blacks hold only 6.2 percent of the sports writing jobs. Out of more than 300 newspapers, just five have a black sports editor. By contrast, nine out of 10 sports editors were white males, as were 84 percent of sports columnists. Still, those dire statistics don't tell the whole story about the pipeline. For example, no insight on attrition, what types of publications Black sportswriters work at, what sports they cover and whether said writers are on track for columnist, editor or management positions.

I have to wonder what the legacy of Spike's endowment will be. No matter how much support is provided, how many of the intended beneficiaries of the program will choose to potentially sacrifice a paid position for an internship just to hopefully advance to some low paying job and then proceed to work their way up in a presumably good 'ol boy environment. It might take more than a few encouraging professors to make anyone, Black, White or whatever, to look forward to that fate.

One only has to look to the sports blogosphere to understand that Lee's goals might be easier said than effectuated. To my knowledge, there are remarkably few Black people who choose to blog primarily about sports. Let's see, there's me, ms. suns gossip, the starting five, nation of islam sportsblog, bench renaldo, jones on the nba, the commission... That list is based completely on my limited knowledge and I'm sure there are a few more I'm missing and some bloggers who haven't "outted" their race, but you get the point. That's not a lot of blogs, especially given that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of sports blogs with an audience beyond their immediate family.

This is a point of interest because blogging is completely voluntarily. No education required. No interview. No hook up. No internship. No undesirable assignments. Open up a blogger, wordpress or typepad account and you're a writer. It's just that simple. You don't even need a computer. You can post from your cell phone. You can blog as little or much as you want. You can write any way you want. The blogs I listed are all very diverse in subject matter and style. It seems to me that if you wanted your voice to be heard, whether as a personal or professional pursuit, the blogosphere would be an ideal place to get started. Still, that many Black people don't seem to be participating.

The blogosphere, arguably the most free of all journalistic venues, remains primarily the domain of 18-35 White males. Hey, I love White males as much as the next person, but I wonder why the sports blogosphere as not become as diverse as the people who are fans of sports. That goes for Blacks, women, Hispanics, Asians and all the rest.

I wonder if Morehouse's new program will be holding courses about coping with alienation. You can turn to the best of the blogosphere and will inevitably find too much one sided complaining about Pacman Jones and Scoop Jackson. What am I supposed to do when I can't even leave a dissenting comment on some posts? Not because I'm not free to do so. Just some days I just don't have the energy to be the lone voice of dissent. What am I supposed to do when people complain that I write about race too much (Lol, on my blog!). The blog is challenging enough. I can only what it must be like in the press box.

What Spike Lee is trying to do is important. Some may question why this is such a big deal, but in large part, stereotypes and misinformation are perpetuated through the mainstream media. All media. So it's important that the producers are equipped to provide balanced coverage. Diverse staffing can play a big part in that.

So, I hope they teach good writing, career prep skills, and definitely how to counter the frequent sense of alienation. Somedays I have to remind myself, my voice does matter. Even in the blogosphere. I'm a all for a few brothers getting a chance to shout from the press box.


DP said...

Good Post. I just wanted to get in before the whiny masses come in pining for the "good ole days" when everything didnt boil down to race.

silly folk.

I dont blog primarily about sports because I have my eyes on so much different stuff I try to spread the wealth.

Ironically, one of my long time readers mentioned that lately I had been writing alot more about sports than anything else lately.

I looked back and realized that it is a function of what I have been reading. Reading you and TSF and others have led me to writing more about those things myself.

The Rover said...

Yeah, I'm in the same boat - the few readers I have would probably bail if I went to sports all the time. We need more Wilbons and Michael Smiths.

And Head Chicks.

MCBias said...

Hmm...sorry, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this. I do feel that black representation is decent in the bloggosphere ( could be on that list too) in comparison with other minorities. Asian, Hispanic, and female representation is much worse. And don't even get me started on conservative representation. I get pretty tired of opening deadspin topics and finding 50-100 comments in a liberal direction. Sometimes I vent my conservative self, other times I keep it to myself. I do understand how you feel, being the lone voice; I just don't want to allow you the privilege of a private pity party, ha.

I think what the blogging numbers show is that the problem is not just barriers to entry. This is what disturbs me about Affirmative Action as well, if you'll excuse my political two cents; the problem is not at college, it's at high school and before. It's not that tons of eager, willing black journalists are being held back by the Man. No, the pipeline itself is empty, and that needs to be filled too before you will see the bigger media outlets having more black voices/faces.

D-Wil said...

The pipeline isn't empty - and I can attest to that. At the moment there's much room for black sports writers if they espouse a Whitlockian viewpoint and precious little room for those who want to refrain from knee-jerk TV-talk journalism.

JJ said...


JJ said...

Oh and there is hardly a dearth of conservative blogger. Little Green Footballs, Drudge and Red State are just a few and I could jeep going.

Sounds like you're just upset the whole world doesn't think like you.

The HCIC said...

jj, I am not upset everybody doesn't think like me.

Being Black does not necessarily equate to a political agenda or otherwisw thinking alike.

As I pointed out, the list of bloggers I was able to highlight each have VASTLY different blogs.

And thanks for higlighting some "conservative" blogs. All information and analysis is valuable information and analysis.

MCBias said...

HCIC, I think jj is busting on me, not you. But thanks for taking the bullet for me (tips hat). JJ, fair point on politics. I'm complaining about sports blogs coverage of moral issues, though, not politics.

D-Wil and HCIC, I got some comeuppance last night. A black teenager I know at church, who I hadn't seen in a while, told me he is going to be a journalist now. It made me smile and think of you both :-) pipeline might not be as empty as I was saying.

Miss SunsGossip said...

agree with D-Wil that the lack of professional diversity is not really about the pipeline being empty, but about the limited "roles" black sports journalists are allowed to play. I also have to think there is a little bit of the "baseball" problem here -- a talented young black kid might not be able to afford taking the chance on the low-paying sports journalism world (like the talented young black athlete shies away from baseball)...

None of this explains the lack of diversity in the sports blogosphere (and who knows if diversity -- of any of the kinds mentioned -- is a problem, but based on anecdotal evidence, it seems to be).