Sex Roles, Vol. 51, Nos. 11/12, December 2004 (
Exclusionary Practices in Sport Journalism
and Agnes Elling
The relatively low percentage of women and minority sport journalists suggests dynamics of
exclusion. We used J. Acker’s (1990, 1992) theory about gender and organizations to examine
several interrelated processes in the construction of gender and ethnicity in sport journalism.
Acker named 4 processes that inform these constructions: division of labor, images and dis-
courses, interactions, and identity work. We held semistructured interviews with 15 experi-
enced journalists/editors who worked in the sport departments of either national newspapers,
commercial television, or public television. The results indicate that, although the journalists
asserted that the meanings given to their ways of doing journalism are ideologically neutral,
these 4 processes do construct gender and ethnicity in overlapping and interrelated ways. In
the discussion, we place these results in their context and focus on this contradiction between
desirable and actual neutrality.
KEY WORDS: gender; exclusionary practices; journalism; organization; sport.
In 1916, a young woman wrote to The New York
Sun to ask where she could go to learn how to be
a woman reporter. In reply to the aspiring news-
woman, a journalist identiﬁed only as Miss Gilbert
informed the young woman that “The School of
Journalism, Columbia University and at New York
University, is open to women as well as to men.” Miss
Gilbert saw journalism as a calling that demanded a
special type of person. “You can never ‘learn’ to be
a woman reporter as you could learn dressmaking
or stenography, because reporting is a type of work
requiring exceptional abilities,” she wrote. What
Miss Gilbert did not tell the young seeker of career
counseling was that the Columbia University Grad-
uate School of Journalism limited its enrollment of
women to 10% of the class, a quota that stayed in
place until the late 1960s (Lafky, 1993, p. 93).
Journalism as an occupation is a skewed pro-
fession, that is, most journalists are White men.
Mulier Institute, Den Bosch, The Netherlands.
Utrecht School of Governance and Organization Studies, Univer-
sity of Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Leisure Studies, University of Tilburg, The Netherlands.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at USG, Univer-
sity of Utrecht, Bijlhouwerstraat 6, 3511 ZC Utrecht, The Nether-
lands; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Approximately one third of the journalists in the
USA and Europe are women (Deuze, 2000). Lafky
(1993) has documented the status of women and eth-
nic minorities in the journalistic workforce between
1962 and 1992 and the barriers they experience. The
percentage of journalists who are women increased
from 20 to 34% between 1971 and 1982 and changed
little between 1982 and 1992; in the latter time pe-
riod, the percentage of journalists who are ethnic mi-
norities increased from 4 to 8% (Lafky, 1993). Cur-
rently, 34% of the journalists in the Netherlands are
women and 8% are ethnic minorities (Deuze, 2000).
Female graduates currently outnumber male gradu-
ates at the Dutch academy of journalism (Centraal
Bureau voor de Statistiek [CBS], 2002), and the per-
centage of women among journalists with less than
4 years experience is relatively high (45%).
words, increasingly more women are entering the
ﬁeld of journalism. It is surprising, therefore, that
the percentage of women and ethnic minorities who
work in the sport media tends to be much smaller
than in other types of journalism. In the Netherlands,
for example, women and ethnic minorities make up 7
Currently no data are available on the number of ethnic minori-
ties entering and graduating from schools of journalism.
2004 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.