The question inevitably comes up when meeting new people, “What do you do?”
In so many ways we define ourselves, and others, by our career choice. We make certain assumptions, both ourselves and others, by how we earn our paychecks.
And my answer tends to solicit all kinds of extra questions.
When I tell people I’m a sportswriter I get all kinds of responses from “cool” to looks of bewilderment.
The most often asked questions that follow are:
- Did you play sports in high school? (No. I was a manager. I didn’t discover my own athletic identity until my 30s.)
- You must have had a father/brother/uncle who played sports, right? (Other than my brother’s ill-fated season as a goalie for an indoor soccer team when he was in elementary school, then not really. His stint as with the varsity high school tennis team started after I had already declared myself an aspiring sports journalist in college.)
- So, um, do you go into the locker room? (Yes, because that’s where the people I need to interview are located. It’s not a pleasant place. It smells bad, it’s crowded, people are moody and I’m on deadline.)
I try not to roll my eyes when people ask those kinds of follow-up questions. The majority of the time, they’re well-meaning and simply curious. But sadly, women in positions in sports media still are the exception to the rule and the stereotyping still exists. Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes it outright libelous and discriminatory. Sometimes you hear stories that cause your head to thump repeatedly on your desk and wonder if somehow you’ve traveled back in time to 1977.
Here’s the thing about adding voices to the media — you get different stories, different styles, different tones, different perspectives. Each of us has our own baggage (good and bad) and those experiences shape the way we perceive the world. The more varied the backgrounds of your sports media types, be they journalists or public relations specialists or any shade in between, the richer your news will be. Not only will get different takes on the usual suspects, but you will also get different kinds of coverage.
There is room for all.
Only without opportunity, those voices often are never developed or even worse, never heard.
That’s where organizations like the Association for Women in Sports Media have a vital importance. I’m honored to be the current president of the group which works to help women have equal access to opportunities, to have safe spaces in which to do their work and advocates for fair and accurate portrayals of female professionals in the media.
While I was growing up, there were few women sports reporters to idolize. I grew up reading The Buffalo News (my current employer) and writing up high school reports for my hometown Lockport Union-Sun and Journal. My dream of combining my love of writing and love of sports was sparked by my junior high English teacher and the varsity girls basketball coach (who, by the way, was a guy) and nurtured by others in my life who understood my passions.
By luck I was afforded (and self-created) opportunities to intern and learn in the field while I was in high school and college.
Now, I have the opportunity to pay it forward to another generation of talented, young female professionals, with the hope they don’t have to spend the better part of a party explaining how it is you enter a locker room.
To help fund the internship/scholarship program, AWSM is participating in Macy’s “Shop for A Cause” fundraiser. For a $5 donation (all of which goes to the AWSM scholarship fund) you get a shopping pass good for 20 percent off at Macy’s on Saturday, Oct. 16. The coupon is good both in-stores nationwide and for online purchases.
Consider this my official fundraising plea.
Really, how can you lose? A $5 donation and an excuse to go shopping.
Because by bringing more voices to the room, by creating more opportunities for others, our own experiences will be richer and more colorful.