Racism Charges Persist At Newsday p.14

By: Tony Case Copy editor airs discrimination complaints against the tabloid
at National Association of Black Journalists convention sp.

CHARGES OF RACISM in Newsday's sports department persist, months after the Long Island daily was hit with a race discrimination complaint.
In the most recent airing of Newsday's internal strife, copy editor Gerry Monigan told National Association of Black Journalists conventioneers in Philadelphia he was shifted from the sports copy desk to the newsroom after complaining that blacks got preference in hiring.
Monigan said management discouraged him from applying for a reporting position that, he was told, was earmarked for a minority. He feels he was discriminated against ? and eventually bumped from the sports staff ? purely because he is a white male.
"I said it, I believe, one too many times," he said.
Earlier this year, Newsday suspended, then dismissed sports copy editor Eric Compton after he made allegedly racist remarks. Compton then charged, in papers filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights, that he was let go "because of my race and color" (E&P, June 10).
The NABJ Sports Task Force has charged for years that Newsday's sports department was inhospitable to minorities. Meanwhile, white staffers such as Monigan and Compton maintain the tabloid's diversity effort has hurt their chances for advancement. This, at a time when Republicans in Congress say affirmative action programs ought to be dismantled because they're discriminatory.
Monigan said he expressed interest in taking over the New York Knicks beat when the position last came available. He considered himself a viable candidate since he'd covered the basketball team for five seasons at smaller newspapers. But, according to Monigan, a Newsday executive, who he didn't name, told him he'd be wasting his time applying for the post since it was a "black reporter's job."
The Knicks assignment went to David Steele, an African American whose experience at the time, Monigan contends, was comparable to his own. "The fact that David got the job doesn't bother me, because he happens to be excellent," Monigan said. "What bothers me is that I was automatically excluded because of my race and gender."
Monigan feels he made a fatal mistake in telling his managers he thought he'd been discriminated against.
"I believe, in effect, what I had done is say, 'The emperor has no clothes,' which effectively ended any chance of my getting a writing job," he said.
Newsday sports editor Steve Ruinsky told NABJ members that, while his newspaper considers diversity in hiring, it has no policy of setting aside jobs for minorities. And assistant managing editor Robert Keane insisted there is no such thing as a "black reporter's job" at Newsday.
In recent times, roughly one-third of the daily's sports hires have been minority. "That means two-thirds have been white," Keane said.
Newsday columnist Ralph Parker, who is black, maintained if the allegation that African Americans take jobs from whites were true, the paper would have more than just a smattering of blacks on its sports staff.
"I'm at Newsday and there are two black people there," he said, exaggerating the makeup of the work force. "Where is everybody? I look at the New York Post and there's not one black staffer on the New York Post. Where are all the jobs going? Who has them? We don't have them."
Neil Scarbrough, formerly of Newsday and now sports editor of the Nashville Tennessean, said that even if his fellow black journalists are getting priority, he isn't put off by it.
"I'm not going to apologize to anybody that blacks are getting jobs or women are getting jobs, or that people are going African hunting or Asian hunting or Hispanic hunting or whatever they want to call it," said Scarbrough. "The numbers here are out of balance, and if people are well-thinking enough to want to do something about it, then so be it."
Annette John-Hall, a longtime sportswriter and currently an education reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer, doesn't buy the contention that blacks have upset the upward mobility of their white colleagues. Where there are 30 positions available in a given newsroom, she suggested, maybe a couple are designated for minorities."We tend to cancel each other out," she said.
But John-Hall, who covered the Denver Nuggets three years, understands why the National Basketball Association might indeed be considered a black reporter's domain. She and other black journalists call the NBA beat "the ghetto," she related, "because we do seem to congregate there."
John-Hall recalled that the NBA was the only pro sports beat for which she, could be considered. Why? Because blacks have been tried out ? and have succeeded ? as basketball reporters, but have been denied the opportunity to write about other sports. "I think sports editors are a little squeamish about putting an African American on the baseball beat or, perhaps, a professional football beat," she said. "The NBA is a very comfortable realm for them, and I think they have started, consciously or subconsciously, pigeonholing us."
But sports editors, says John-Hall, have to choose between staying in their "comfort zone" and "expanding their horizons" when it comes to making assignments to blacks.
There are few African Americans and women covering athletics on American newspapers. when John-Hall was at the San Jose Mercury News, she truly was an anomaly: a black female sports columnist. But why, she wonders, shouldn't a newspaper have one ? even two ? black sports columnists, especially considering the overwhelming percentage of professional athletes who are black?
"We have it real hard in this business because sports editors tend not to value our talent as much as they value those who are white columnists," John-Hall charged, mentioning Newsday's Mike Lupica, whose annual salary is reported to be a whopping $675,000.
"I think the mind-set has to be changed. There has to be a realization that the talent of African American sportswriters is valuable talent."


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