THE TURMOIL IN Newsday's sports department has been reported in two African-American newsletters and in a newspaper column by a black columnist.
But none of the stories has identified Eric Compton as the copy editor who lost his job.
Melanie Eversley wrote the first and most comprehensive account of the racially based employment conflict in the March NABJ Journal, the newsletter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Eversley, the multicultural writer for the Asbury Park Press, Neptune, N.J., reported that a "sports editor" had been fired from Melville, N.Y.-based Newsday, but she decided not to identify Compton.
"I felt it might be libelous to mention his name," said Eversley. "If he was a columnist, it might have been different. But he was a copy editor, and it didn't pass our public-figure test.
"To keep NABJ safe, I decided not to do it. People have told me that copies of it have been circulating around Newsday and the New York Daily News."
Eversley said she could not contact Compton, but got his side of the story from his attorney, James Matthews Jr., of Commack, N.Y.
Matthews maintained that Compton never said the things he was fired for.
"Obviously, Newsday wants to make a statement on affirmative action, and while that is laudable, they somehow got the wrong person involved," Matthews told NABJ's newsletter.
The spring issue of NABJ's task force newsletter noted Compton's firing in the middle of a story on the appointment of Rob Parker as Newsday's first African-American sports columnist.
"Parker's hiring comes at a time when Newsday's sports department is being heavily scrutinized," said the article by Michael Terry of the Los Angeles Times. "A white copy editor was recently fired for allegedly making racial remarks."
Parker was originally offered the beat covering New York Yankee baseball, but held out for the column and eventually got it, the article said.
Dwight Lewis, metropolitan editor of the Nashville Tennessean, published the only mainstream mention of the Newsday turmoil, at the conclusion of a column entitled "We all need to remember that words can hurt others."
Lewis said in an interview that the lack of contact that blacks and whites had outside the newsroom fostered some of the tension inside the newspaper buildings.
"We come in and then go back to our own communities," he said. "To places where we feel comfortable.
"But we ought to spend more time with each other, so we can get to know each other."
By: Allan Wolper Scrutiny on the sports department sp.