It’s All Journalism: How to bring diversity to your sports desk

In April, Greg Lee raised some eyebrows when he called out The Athletic for its new roster of sports reporters.

Lee, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, was getting phone calls and emails from members asking what was going on.

“They were showing pictures of the people they were hiring and it was white men, mostly,” said Lee, who got his start at the Times-Picayune as a sports writer when he was 19. “I took it upon myself to do a scientific survey. They had on their website their staff and photos of everyone, they always announced who they hired.”

When he collected sufficient information, Lee took to Twitter to call out the rapidly expanding subscription-based sports website for its lack of diversity. Lee had previously questioned The Athletic for its diversity (or lack thereof) when the publication posted its All American team a year prior, but didn’t receive a response.

This time, things were different.

A conversation started, and now Lee is the managing editor for The Athletic’s DC page, covering professional and college sports in both Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

His ties to NABJ and its partner organizations, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Asian Journalists, among others, has made Lee a leader in urging the publications he’d worked for to consider diversity and to bring on minority and women journalists.

In many cases, it’s simply a matter of shining a light on an aspect of the hiring and recruitment process that editors and managers didn’t previously consider. During his time at the Boston Globe, he helped introduce his boss to several organizations and writers, and the Globe ended up with two African American women covering the Patriots, an Asian-American man covering the Boston Bruins and a woman covering the Boston Red Sox, among others. “For all our major beats, we had women and minorities covering the teams,” he said.

In addition to managing The Athletic’s team in D.C., Lee is an instructor with the Sports Journalism Institute, an intense three-week camp that brings together student journalists from around the country to teach them the fundamentals of covering sports for two weeks before spending their final week at a sports journalism conference.

Lee was a member of the institute’s second class at Kansas University and recalls getting up at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. to spend a few hours reading newspapers and taking quizzes before going to Royals games and learning how to cover a professional team in real time.

“This is like my boyhood dream,” Lee said.

Greg Lee, managing editor for The Athletic‘s Washington, D.C. edition, joins producer Michael O’Connell to discuss how a lifelong love of sports and a dedication to diversity led him to fulfilling a dream he didn’t even know was a possibility.