Thursday, January 22, 2015

Making the List

What do you see in this photo? 

I see people I know and like - Grant, Jeff, Joe, Scott, Kyle, in particular - but Daniel Altman has a point. There aren't any women. 

There aren't any minorities, either. And considering this media session with Jozy Altidore took place in LA, I found it odd that there weren't any Spanish media there, and a translator if they needed it (many don't). 

In the discussion that followed Daniel's original tweet, Adam Serrano pointed out that the session, hosted by U.S. Soccer (where Altidore just joined the January camp after signing with Toronto FC) wasn't invite-only, but the fact is, I, for one, didn't get the email announcing the event. 

What's odd about that is that I am on one of U.S. Soccer's press distribution lists. I get game quotes and other stuff like many media members. The truth is, though, there's more than one media list. Clearly, I wasn't on this one. 

Why are different lists kept? Well, perhaps the organization wants to 'reward' reporters that have faithfully covered the US team for a while. 

But where does that leave reporters who have other coverage responsibilities, including other national teams, like Mexico? I've commiserated before with reporters who complain about the hassle they've gotten from US Soccer for writing on other squads. I've also heard before, from someone working for US Soccer at the time, "Why should we help reporters who are at our events to cover another team?" 

Short answer: It's their job. Soccer in the USA, especially LA, isn't just the USA team. Whenever Mexico plays in the US, the federation makes money and the game grows with more fans involved. 

In general, the organization's outreach to minorities, especially Latinos, should be more than perfunctory, with just a few bits of news on the Spanish-language edition of Spanish media should definitely get announcements about all press events. 

Maybe U.S. Soccer isn't to blame at all for the lack of diversity among the press ranks in the photo. Media outlets and assigning editors may default too easily to sending known entities - the European soccer guy - without taking time to consider others. For example, even if I had gotten the announcement about Jozy's event, I wouldn't have had an outlet to write about it. Mexico is my beat for ESPNFC. 

Again and again, I've gone out of my way to remind people that the scene in U.S. soccer is incredibly diverse, with Hispanic, Asian, & African elements and huge participation by females. But stereotypes exist, and without a diverse media voice and perspectives from different elements of the soccer landscape, they will persist.

In a perfect world, minority reporters wouldn't have to move on to other jobs and could still stay and be paid well on the soccer beat. I remember working with Luis A. Luis B, Damien, Dylan, Bernie, Jose, Miguel, Jaime C. and others. Younger writers, like Josie Becker, would get more consistent gigs. 

And all of us, no matter our critical views on U.S. Soccer, players or coaches, no matter what other teams we'd sometimes cover in the sport, would all be on the same list for press events. Then, I'd bet, the picture would look different - with all these guys still there, perhaps, but many others as well.

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