Washington Post Teed Off about Discrimination in Private Organization

     As one of the greatest tournaments in golf got under way on April 5, the front page of The Washington Post sports section complained about fair ways.

     Not fairways, which have been lengthened in recent years to adjust for improved golf clubs and balls, but the fairness of the membership composition of the Augusta National Golf Club – a private organization.

     Post staff writer Leonard Shapiro highlighted new chairman Billy Payne’s unwillingness to discuss the issue of women being accepted into the club.

     In an article headlined “Augusta Chairman Averts Issue of Women,” Shapiro wrote, “he refused to be drawn into a discussion of the issue” at an April 4 news conference.

     Hyping the controversy, which was New York Times turf back in 2003, the Post’s Shapiro left the “biggest news of the day” about the tournament’s new eligibility criteria until the tenth paragraph and never emphasized that Augusta National is private and has the legal right to determine its membership.

     As the Media Research Center’s TimesWatch documented, in 2003 the Times ran news and editorials praising feminist Martha Burk and her crusade against Augusta for the club’s men-only membership, and spiked columns that dissented from the executive editor Howell Raines position.

     A year earlier the National Council of Women’s Organizations pressured the tournament’s sponsors to stop supporting the Masters. This resulted in the 2003 tournament losing the advertising revenue and running commercial-free to protect would-be sponsors from controversy, as The Washington Post reported on August 31, 2002.

     But this year, even The New York Times didn’t bring up discrimination in its April 5 issue. Instead the Times featured a column about Tiger Woods, another about the changed eligibility requirements and a column about the legendary Arnold Palmer, who will be hitting the opening tee shot for the 2007 Masters.

     The April 5 USA Today eight-page bonus sports section entirely about the Masters only mentioned the club’s 2003 gender controversy in historical context.