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The Race Card is pulled in Ohio

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Drip, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    Found this interesting on Richard Prince's Journal-isms.

    Ohio Papers Lose Last Black Writer Covering LeBron

    George Thomas of the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal was taken off the Cleveland Cavaliers beat on Wednesday, he told Journal-isms, apparently leaving Ohio's major media outlets with no journalists of color regularly covering superstar LeBron James.

    The lack of black sportswriters in mainstream Ohio media extends to coverage of other major franchises as well, but James is big news because of his impending free agentry.

    In fact, some think he is too much in the news. "Each day ESPN has something new to report on the biggest NBA revolution since the 24-second clock was instituted in the 1950's," Dennis Bakay wrote on the website Phily2Philly. "What is Lebron saying? What teams are hot after Lebron? Will Lebron and Dwyane Wade go to Chicago together? Next, ESPN will be reporting on Lebron James' next gourmet dinner when he's out on the town."

    In Cleveland, Plain Dealer Public Editor Ted Diadiun wrote on Sunday, "The Plain Dealer has never had a story quite like this one to cover, with the eyes of the sports world upon us over such a protracted length of time. For the sports staff, it's been like fighting a two-front war, with one being the job of reporting the actual news, and the other trying to get a handle on the vast amount of speculation, innuendo and rumor that rumbles around this story 24 hours a day."

    The Plain Dealer used to have a black sportswriter covering James, but Branson Wright was reassigned two years ago.

    Now it's Thomas' turn, but he told Journal-isms he did not know what the paper had in store for him. A former movie critic at the paper, Thomas, 45, saw that position eliminated.

    "They gave me two years, and they didn't understand the importance of an African American athlete being able to [relate to] someone who may not have all the same life experiences, but can understand where they're coming from," James said. "Having grown up in a similar fashion, I can understand," he said. He citied, for example, his desire to own items his family could not afford when he was a child.

    To some, the issue is bigger than coverage of James and the Cavs.

    None of the top editors at the Plain Dealer, the Beacon Journal or the Columbus Dispatch responded Wednesday when asked whether journalists of color were covering any of the major teams in the state.

    "The NFL is almost 70 percent black, the NBA is almost 80 percent black. African Americans have put a huge imprint on sports," said writer Chris Broussard, who started out at the Plain Dealer and went on to the Beacon Journal, the New York Times and ESPN. He says he takes nothing away from the white sportswriters covering the teams, but "not to have any African Americans is insulting. It's stereotypical. You're good enough to play sports, but not good enough to write about it."

    Broussard points out the city of Cleveland's 52.5 percent black population, and said the absence of African American sportswriters was brought home to him last month when the Plain Dealer ran pictures of five of its sportswriters who commented on James winning the NBA's Most Valuable Player award — and all were white. There are also no black sportswriters on Cleveland or Akron radio, he said.

    Duane Rankin of the Erie (Pa.) Times-News, who travels 90 miles to cover the Cavs, mainly in the postseason, told Journal-isms it was jarring to see black sportswriters from out of state but not from Ohio.

    "Go in Cleveland's locker room? If it's not a national reporter, say a David Aldridge or Chris Broussard or Michael Lee from the Washington Post, it was just George Thomas from Ohio papers," he said.

    "One of [the] things I did notice is when George was on the beat, he got better at it. Wasn't his thing, but he did get better and the players and coaches warmed up to him, particularly Coach Mike Brown, who is of course African-American. I remember doing a group interview with Brown and he referred to George as GT. There was a connection there."

    For all that, Thomas, who has been at the Beacon Journal for 11 years, acknowledges covering the Cavs wasn't his ideal. "My dream job is always going to be a movie critic, but those jobs aren't available anymore, he said, "and the industry has essentially sold its soul to the bottom line, and that is too bad, because I was a helluva movie critic."
  2. CitizenTino

    CitizenTino Active Member

    Can't really speak to the bigger issues being discussed here.

    But one thing I can say: Race had absolutely nothing to do with Branson Wright getting turfed off the Cavs beat and to try to lump his situation in with the rest of this is ludicrous.

    As for George Thomas, he was put in an impossible spot trying to follow Brian Windhorst (who, by the way, now has Branson's old gig at the PD). Windhorst is one of the best beat writers in the country, and by Thomas' own admission, it wasn't like being an NBA writer was his dream job to begin with.
  3. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    "He citied, for example, his desire to own items his family could not afford when he was a child."

    We probably have a lot of black sportswriters if that's a qualification.
  4. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    Not going to fault a guy in this economy for doing whatever it takes to keep his job. Any other time, I'd say it's deplorable. Today's job climate, keep your job at all cost.
  5. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    I believe the heart of the story is why there isn't any African American sportswriters covering pro teams in a city that is predominately African American. As Arsenio Hall would say of his hometown, "Things that make you go, hmmmmm."
  6. tapintoamerica

    tapintoamerica Well-Known Member

    Probably because there haven't been any sportswriters hired anywhere since about 2005.
  7. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    Can't really argue with that.
  8. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    And yet, despite that...
  9. Pancamo

    Pancamo Active Member

    Is it a stereotype that a black writer needs to be on the NBA beat?
  10. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    Obviously not in Ohio
  11. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    This was my thought, as well.

    There's no doubt that newspapers/other media like to have black writers on NBA beats, and there's no doubt that, sometimes, it may add something to the equation.

    There's also no guarantee that it will, however, and, as in most cases when the race card is used, too much is being made of the issue for the circumstances.

    We're reporters. We're supposed to find/use ways of getting along with, getting information from, relating to and getting a sense and understanding of people, and doing our research, our reporting and our work regardless of the circumstances or the people involved.

    That is part and parcel of the job. It should be our MO in any situation and regardless of our ethnicity, and it is possible.

    The old sports argument that, supposedly, "black people are good enough to play in the NBA but not cover it" -- or to be owners, or whatever else, for that matter, is both ridiculous, and also, quite possible.

    It depends on the persons involved, same as it does if you think it's possible for white writers to be good enough to write about the NBA, but not to play in it, and thus, have the same chance to earn millions that way.

    People do have different strengths, and their opportunities may be different, sometimes. That doesn't mean the opportunities are non-existent, however, or that they are not happening for necessarily sinister reasons, and the situation can't and should not always be painted as such.

    To think that LeBron James can or should only be covered by a black writer is ridiculous, just as it is wrong to say that he can only be covered by a white writer.

    It just depends upon the people and the circumstances. As an editor or other media type, I would be much more concerned with there being no black writers digging into socioeconomic issues of inner cities on the news side of a paper than I would be about whether they are covering the NBA.

    It just has to do with the nature and the relative importance and potential impact of the beast, and of understanding it.
  12. cwilson3

    cwilson3 Member

    Wasn't Thomas covering the Browns,too? He was bound to be taken off one of the beats sooner or later wasn't he? As for Branson, he wasn't a great beat writer to begin with and was replaced with the gold standard, and as ct hinted, he lost that beat on his own for reasons a lot of people might be fired for, allegedly.
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