There is still time to buy earlybird tickets…but not much!

When we originally created the conference, we did so with colorblindness – simply trying to find the most prominent bloggers from the most prominent outlets.  Waaaay back in 2009 as sports bloggers were just scratching the surface on social media, most of those we reached out to were anonymous or posting under the umbrella of their site’s name or a pen name.  One of the great break-throughs with that original Blogs With Balls was the fact that, for the first time, we in the community had actually been in the same room (physical, not chat), and looked each other in the eyes.

Admittedly, most (but certainly not all) were  white males.  And that’s fine.

When it was brought to our attention, prominently by female sports fans and bloggers, we were adamant about not looking to “check off boxes” and meet quotas based on sex or race. At the time, we were checking off boxes of industry and publication.

Deadspin, check.  Yahoo!, check.  ESPN, check.  SI, check.  Yardbarker, SB Nation, Bleacher Report, Fansided, FOX, CBS, NBC.  Check, check, check, check, check, check, check.

But as the conversation grew, it became more than just about snark and business.  There is an undoubted social element that sports bears in this country.  It started with the lack of female voices at the first two events.  Not for the sake of “having a female on a panel,” but for the sake of having a female perspective on a panel to discuss how women are treated and advanced in the industry and/or how women’s sports are covered and perceived in the US.

People like Amy K. Nelson, Amanda Rykoff and Sarah Spain are folks who we’ve always considered a very large part of the BWB family.  Not as females, but as journalists.  They weren’t female voices.  Their perspectives where those of any other peer.  They weren’t put on panels because of their gender, but because of the quality of their work and the contributions they make to their respective field.

So, maybe the issue wasn’t the panel make-up itself, but the lack of diversity in the conversation.

I was fortunate to have met and developed a strong friendship as well as professional relationship with Women Talk Sports’ Megan Hueter.  The site’s goal is “promoting and empowering female athleticism.”  More importantly, Megan’s passion and willingness to work towards achieving that goal made it a no-brainer to actively involve her in programming of BWB to advance that cause.  At last year’s show she created and ran a “Women Talk Sports” panel at BWB4 complete with a male for diversity’s sake (Thanks @richarddeitsch!).

It was a small, but important step.

Another person I’ve grown quite close to and fond of is ESPN personality Jemele Hill.  Jemele isn’t afraid to be vocal about race and diversity issues.  Sometimes she is criticized for it online, but her intentions are pure in raising the issues and her desire to aid in the advancement of African-American journalists is second to none.  After spending quality time with her at BWB SxSW, the wheels started turning on how to best incorporate race into the conversation in the most productive way possible.  Jemele helped speed up that notion when she (with an assist from Bomani Jones) flat out asked leaders of some of those outlets listed above in our checklist about their hiring practices and lack of minorities (AJ, to his credit, didn’t shy away and answered as honestly as he could).

This past year, I had the honor (along with Daulerio and Bomani, among others) of joining Jemele at the National Association of Black Journalists’ conference for a panel discussion titled New Media, Old Problems (“The number of sports blogs/websites have grown considerably, but why are so many of them still so white?”).

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, was that the issues minority bloggers face aren’t terribly different than those white bloggers face.  There are a handful (and that’s generous) of well-paying sports blogging jobs and a large number of bloggers who think they are qualified to fill them.  One thing fellow panelist (African-American female EIC of Yahoo!’s Shutdown Corner) Graham Watson and Daulerio agreed on is that when they judge hires by their work and resumes, and neither ask nor receive 8×10 glossy headshots when a job opening arises.  You need to make your mark and make sure people see it.  Hopefully, that’s where we come in.

The point I made on the panel is that a female former college athlete covering Title IX would have a different and equally compelling and/or important perspective than I would on the topic.  A gay male athlete would have a different and equally compelling and/or important perspective on closeted athlete coming out of the closet.  And these voices should be a part of the general conversation, not relegated to a niche corner of the blogosphere.

Now, if you have a personal blog, cover whatever you like, however you like.  More power to you.  I’m not trying to tell you what to do or what your audience should hear.  You know that better than anyone.  Run with it.

But for the purposes of BWB, we like to think we – in whatever little way – helped raise voices and awareness beyond and within our little tucked away corner of the universe.

That’s why – with much credit to Megan and Jemele (and Amy, Amanda, Sarah and Bomani, Graham, Kevin Blackistone, Nicole LaVoi, Alana G, Julie DiCaro and many others’ influence), we are thrilled to host a very frank, honest discussion at this year’s event titled “CHANGING THE GAME: Diversity in Sports Media.”

Meet the panel.

Jemele Hill is an award winning journalist who spent over a decade working as a sports reporter and columnist with (Raleigh) News & Observer, Detroit Free Press and Orlando Sentinel. In 2006 she was hired by ESPN, and has since established herself as one of the network’s most provocative and popular personalities, both as a writer of a twice-weekly column for ESPN.com, and as a regular contributor to ESPN’s “1st and Ten,” “Jim Rome Is Burning,” and “Around The Horn.”  This year she was named ESPN’s new CFB sideline reporter.

Megan Hueter is the Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of Women Talk Sports and is a digital strategist at Catalyst Public Relations in New York City. Megan is a former collegiate basketball player from New Jersey who will never let go of her passion and love for athletic competition. Megan strongly believes that female athletes, partners and business executives can achieve success by creating a community and coming together. A lot of her efforts go toward facilitating these offline relationships.

Michael Tillery is the writer and co-founder of the sports blog, The Starting Five and writes for The Shadow League as well. He has also written for The Nation, New York Times Room for Debate forum, Sacramento and Slam Magazines.

Cyd Zeigler is co-founder of Outsports.com, the world’s leading gay-sports publication. He’s broken national stories including the first-ever Division 1 transgender athlete, the coming out of John Amaechi and Wade Davis, and the gay brother of NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. Previously, Cyd was the associate editor of the New York Blade newspaper and a development executive at Disney Channel. He contributes to various publications, including Out Magazine and the Huffington Post. He lives in Los Angeles with his partner.

Tyler Tumminia is Senior Vice President with the Goldklang Group, a minor league baseball ownership consortium that currently owns/manages five ballclubs in various markets throughout the U.S.   This past September, Tyler was the first female executive to partake in the MLB Scout School in Phoenix, Arizona.  She oversees operations of the Group’s five teams, as well as the marketing and broad scale sponsorship, baseball operations, and communication efforts for the Goldklang Group. She developed the Group’s marketing philosophy, Be Your Own Fan, in response to current market trends and industry analysis. In addition she is responsible for the largest group-wide partnership with a major brand, the largest singular themed promotional event, and her development of the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame has received tremendous recognition throughout the industry.

Keith Clinkscales is President at Shaddow MediaWorks, home to a digital content producer entitled, Shadow Digital. SD is currently developing digital content for the Alchemy Digital Network (a YouTube Premium Channel), among other outlets. Later in the summer SD will launch The Shadow League, a digital sports platform with the unique mission of delivering sports news with the real…Insights, commentary and analysis. Keith is known industry-wide for captivating audiences with engaging delivery and expertise with topics focused on the power of culture and its impact on shaping America’s history.  His work has been the recipient of two National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Excellence in Journalism Awards. He also received two Peabody Awards – one for the ESPN 30 For 30 Documentary Series and the other for the four-hour documentary special Black Magic. For ESPN the Magazine he worked to develop the Body Issue initiative, he also received a National Magazine Award for his work on The Magazine. Clinkscales has received numerous honors, most recently named one of the Top 50 Minorities in Cable by Cableworld Magazine. Prior to his time with ESPN, he received National Magazine Award nominations for his work with VIBE Magazine.

After toiling around on the blog since 2005, in 2007, Ken Fang received inspiration to start Fang’s Bites anew.  It soon grew to 2,500 unique hits each day and to over 2.5 million unique visitors.  As the years have progressed, Fang’s Bites has grown to be respected by the sports media as a destination for linkage, press releases and critiques.  Ken is single and lives in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. A former Associated Press award-winning radio news reporter in Connecticut and Rhode Island, he provides his unique insight on sports radio and television.