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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

September 11, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Women in sports media gain ground, but it’s an uphill climb

BY KAITLYN KAMINSKI

Women have been emerging in the sports world for 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.  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 a rude welcome. Just two weeks into her new job, she learned that a longtime beat reporter told a team public-relations representative she must be sleeping with a player because 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,” Spain said.

A recent study conducted by The Women’s Media Center (The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2013) found that men contribute to 65 percent of evening broadcasts, and women only 35 percent.

“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,” ESPN sports reporter Jackie MacMullan said. “Women don’t get a second chance like some men do in this profession, they have to be more professional than the men.”

Today, some changes are giving women a chance in the broadcasting field.

“Women have so much more opportunity and freedom in journalism,” said Natalie Morales, “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, get married and start families, working weird hours, weekends and holidays can become problematic. Choices must be made and priorities set.

In prime-time television for the years 2012-2013, 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 corporate front 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.

Regardless of gender, broadcasting is not 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.

“(Looks) play a part in women getting hired, but you have to have strong feelings and opinions,” she said. “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.”

Women are making their mark.

“I was a sportscaster for 12 years prior to coming to the “TODAY Show,” said Jenna Wolfe. “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.

“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.”

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

Kaitlyn Kaminski is a high-school senior from New Jersey who wants to pursue a career in broadcasting.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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