Women in Sports Journalism

Photo by Sarah Spain @SarahSpain

Photo by Sarah Spain @SarahSpain

Women have been emerging in the sports world for quite some time now, but it is only now that we are seeing more women in the locker rooms. In a 2012 study from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 88.3 percent of sports reporters were men and women only 11.7 percent. The number of female sports reporters is steadily growing each year, but many still find the “old boys club” tough to break into.

When ESPN reporter Sarah Spain, then a reporter for start-up website Mouthpiece Sports, moved back to her hometown of Chicago in 2008, she got somewhat of a rude welcome. Just two weeks into her new job, she learned that a longtime beat reporter told a team PR rep she must be sleeping with a player since she was getting better stories than other reporters.

“The best I could do was put my head down and work as hard as possible, never give anyone any reason to suspect impropriety or judge me unfairly, and get good enough at my job that people would respect my work and be forced to re-think their stereotypes or assumptions about female reporters,” said Spain.

In a recent study conducted by The Women’s Media Center: The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2013, it says that men contribute to 65 percent of evening broadcasts, while women only take part in 35 percent of them.

“The people in power are primarily men, who hire more men,” Spain said.

Men may be dominating in the field of journalism, but women outnumber men in journalism classes.

“It’s not necessarily harder for women to get a job in journalism, it is just harder for women to move up. Women don’t get a second chance like some men do in this profession, they have to be more professional than the men,” said ESPN sports reporter Jackie MacMullan.

Today, some changes are being made to give women a chance in the broadcasting field.

“Women have so much more opportunity and freedom in journalism,” says Natalie Morales, a TODAY Show news anchor. “We are on the front lines in war zones…getting the big gets for interviews…and commanding the same salaries in some cases as the top male broadcasters. But there is always more work to be done to ensure all things are truly equal.”

Contessa Brewer, an NBC4NY reporter, says as journalists move from their 20s into their 30s and get married and start families, working weird hours and holiday after holiday, starts to become problematic. It almost becomes a choice of what is more important.

There is without a doubt a huge gender gap in the reporting world. For employment in prime-time television during the 2012-2013 year, 38 percent of females were producers, 34 percent writers, 27 percent executive producers, 28.7 percent news directors and 16 percent editors according to The Women’s Media Center and Media Report to Women.

“In business generally, experts have argued that the reason we don’t see more women in front corporate offices is that women may feel they have to make a choice between career and my family-that you can’t be a good mom and be traveling all the time for your job or be available for breaking news at the drop of a hat” said Brewer.

Today it may seem as if a woman will have to deal with criticism more than men, due to a number of reasons.

“There is no industry without critics, you just have to exhaust all of your energy, don’t set a person as your example, and prove everyone wrong. Someone will always have something to say about you,” said Mike Wilbon, from ESPN.

Regardless of gender, broadcasting is not made for everyone.

“Breaking into broadcasting is very difficult,” said Morales. “Especially on cable where having a great presence and a strong opinion is valued more than fitting some cookie-cutter image. This is in no way a glamorous business and you will be asked to do work around the clock, no sleep, or even time to eat, sometimes.”

Brooke Weisbrod, a sports reporter, agrees with Morales. “[Looks] play a part in women getting hired, but you have to have strong feelings and opinions. That’s what matters. As an analyst/sideline reporter, I truly believe women can differentiate themselves from men by having the ability to read emotion and body language in addition to calling the game or reporting the story. Women can do anything they want to do” said Weisbrod.

Women are starting to make their mark in the sports world.

“I was a sportscaster for 12 years prior to coming to the TODAY Show. When I first started in sports, I was often the only female journalist in any given locker room at any given time. By the time I left sports to come to NBC in 2007, I was among a group of women in the locker room covering games, sports stories, and sports issues. It was refreshing to see how far we had come in a matter of a few years,” said Jenna Wolfe.

Women in sports still have a ways to go before catching up to the male dominant field, and there are no signs of them stopping anytime soon.

“Today there are women covering sports in almost every market in the country. I realize that the numbers still spell a male dominance in journalism, and that’s unfortunate, but we’re headed in the right direction,” said Wolfe.

For females thinking about sports reporting, CNN’s Michelle Kosinski, says you just have to make sure journalism is what you absolutely want to do. It’s a difficult field, you will have to give up stuff along the way.

With the reporting field changing with women reporting in sports, the gender gap may soon be broken.

“Journalism is a lot better than it used to be for females. There has been a lot of progress made with women in journalism and it is just beginning,” MacMullan said.

Author’s note: I decided to write about this topic because I feel very passionate about this issue. It was shocking to look at the numbers and realize women are still breaking into this industry. I believe there is no reason for sexism to be faced today. Clearly we can see it is still a man’s world, but I think women are on to something… Look out boys.

Follow me on twitter @kaitk96

Peace, love, toodles.