The conversation is always the same.
“So what is your job?” to which I answer, “I am the sports editor at the Brunswickan.”
Here it comes . . . wait for it . . .
“Oh really?! That’s awesome. Don’t see many girls who can talk sports. Good for you.”
First of all, that statement is rife with inaccuracy. Kate Beirness is a host for TSN SportsCenter, Erin Hawksworth is on Sportsnet Canada, Shelby Blackley is the Canadian University Press sports editor and well, here I am, sports editor of the Brunswickan – that’s only to name a few females in the world of sports.
It’s not all that unusual to see women stepping onto the court, turf or rink and leading the interviews. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware there is a dominant male presence in sports coverage – and in my skirt and blazer I stand out – but I just look at it as a challenge that I eagerly accept.
One of the many reasons I enjoy covering sports is that I have played many over the years and it has been a crucial part of my life – physically, mentally and socially. Pair this with my desire to write, and boom, I’ve found a lifelong career. Now, many people enter the sports writing ring for their own reasons, but there is always one common factor: we are passionate about the game and want to talk about it. This is true for print, television or radio.
You would think the mere love for sport would be enough, but sadly it isn’t the case. Men, for the most part – don’t worry, I am not condemning all of you – see women as struggling to grasp concepts, missing key plays or not understanding the dynamics, and have an abundance of other reasons as to why they shouldn’t be right in the action and covering games.
Prime example: when you type in “women and sports journalism” into Google, the first hit is “40 Hottest Sports Reporters.” We aren’t being taken seriously. “Well, that list could include men too!” Sorry, you’re wrong, only women.
Scarlett McCourt even wrote a piece on Dailywildcat.com entitled “Women still have a long way to go in sports journalism.”
There is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed.
Another prime example is the phrase “you have a face for broadcast.” Although it is meant as a compliment it can be misconstrued – a “face” for broadcast? What about my experience in soccer translating to word? What about my ability to befriend people who give me tips on a lead? What about my ability to write a 1000-word piece in less than an hour and be proud to have my name on the byline?
Does any of this matter in the world of broadcast? Or is just a “pretty face”?
In McCourt’s article she quotes a statistic that doesn’t surprise me, which makes it all the worse: “According to a 2012 study from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, at 150 newspapers and websites around the country, 90.4 per cent of sports editors were men and 88.3 per cent of sports reporters were men.”
There are advantages to being a female in sports journalism – female athletes are at ease with me sooner than with a man, and men don’t mind talking to me – but it’s being dubbed a “female sports reporter” rather than “sports reporter” like my male counterparts that hits home.
I am female and I am a sports journalist, but one does not have relevance over the other; they are just two ways I can describe myself. It’s 2014, people. Try not to seem so surprised when I can discuss last night’s hockey game without just saying, “I really liked the jerseys.”