Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sportcasters: Women and Minorities Encouraged to Apply

This week at sportscastingjobs.com, published by veteran sports anchor Dave Benz--he expressed his anger that television stations state under sportscasting job opportunities: "Women and minorities are encouraged to apply for sportcasting positions." While he was shocked at this statement, I was shocked at his upset at it. As an aspiring sports female sports journalist, I know I am entering a very white male dominated sector of television. Also, not only are women viewed as less credible as sportscasters (thanks to findings by a Princeton media study), but they also have no margin for error. As Megan Mawicke (Medill Alum and Chicago Sportscaster at CBS 2) told me, "Women in this business have to work extra hard. Read the stats, know there stuff. If I mess up one time I will just be known as the pretty talking face. If my male colleague messes up...well, he just had a temporary brain cramp." So, sorry Benz, but women are coming into this industry whether you like it or not. (Note: Not one person wrote in or called Benz' show to complain about the criteria....I wonder why?...no one wants to take on this feminist fight.)
However, Benz does acknowledge that without EEO qoutas, many sectors of society would not hire females or minorities for sports reporting jobs. Image my own double burden, not only am I the wrong gender (female) for my dream job, but dear god I am South American. Two strikes...I am almost out (pun intended). Consequently, on the other side of the fence, this probably equates to alot of sportscasting job opportunities for me and other aspiring female minority sports reporters. Currently on record, according to data I have found, in the United States, there are only 50 women sportscasters among the 630 affiliates. Not to mention, I could only find 2 Latin American female sportscasters (Lisa Guerrero...who was a former Playboy model but I will address this later) and 2 Asian female sportscasters. This is shocking considering that in both baseball, football and basketball, caucasian players are becoming the minority?

Now, what I do agree on is that a company should hire an individual based on talent---not race, age, gender, etc. But, in the sports business, what constantly irks me and apparently Megan Mawicke is the Playboy Bunny/Former Miss USA (i.e. Lisa Dergan)turned sideline reporter. Not only do they undermine the female pioneers in this business who fought to overcome the female stereotyping, but they detract from the credibility of females who aspire to become sportscasters that are actually sports savvy and not just a pretty face with long wavy hair, thick lips and big boobs. Having a brother who played professional baseball, I know baseball like the back of my own hand. I have traveled to all the ballparks and could do play-by-play with the best of them. Not to mention, growing up with brothers, I was always the goalie, the punching bag holder, outfielder, etc...because all we did was play sports. Now, the part that bothers me...all these women had to do was strip for Playboy and get breast implants (some have no college degree or journalism training) and they are getting picked for these lucrative jobs. In other words, they are hired as "Eye Candy" for male viewers--which obviously boosts ratings. So, what does this mean for journalists like me who study the craft who want these jobs?...should I ring Hugh Hefner and find a plastic surgeon stat?

The fact of the matter, there are female sportscasters out there that are good like Melissa Stark, Megan Mawicke, Suzy Kolber, Linda Cohn, Suzyn Waldman and Hannah Storm. However, these women will continously be degraded because of their gender. Just look at the online website: www.misterpoll.com/4192855962.html where individuals can vote for female sportscaster with the nicest a**, prettiest face, nicest legs, best chest, etc. Oh and lets not forget the top ten hottest sportcaster list put out by Sports Illustrated. Why can't there be a category of most knowledgeable female sportscaster? Or, who is the better sideline female reporter? Why does everything for women in this professsion come back down to looks? Or is it just that those Playboy models are giving the profession a bad name?
While I know that the road ahead is long, I just want to say, women have just as much right to be on a football field talking about a game as men do (despite Andy Rooney's thoughts). This world is changing and so is the industry. Oh and please, let's start looking at female sportscasters as knowledgeable human beings rather than sex objects. Some of us do know what we are doing when it come to playing sports and talking about sports. Oh and a special thanks to ESPN who was the first network to welcome female sportscasters with open arms.


At Wednesday, April 18, 2007, Blogger KY said...

Another age-old dilemma for women broadcasters -- where is the line between professionalism and respect versus superficiality and being taken advantage of. Some people read disclaimers such as "women and minorities encouraged to apply" as a step up and jump at the opportunity, whereas others shrug and say, "No favors needed." Either way, i find that companies feel obligated to write such a disclaimer to remain PC and perhaps appeal to the business's demand for diversity. I tend to lean toward the latter - Why do I need favors as a woman AND minority? Can I survive and get the job on my own talent/abilities? Unfortunately, I think the disclaimer is a mentality that women and minorities will have to deal with for a long time in this business.

At Thursday, April 19, 2007, Blogger AJS said...

Good points re the lack of female sportscasters overall, especially the ones hosting shows like Sportscenter, but you lose me when you complain about sideline reporters. I don't think anyone considers sideline reporters journalists. For instance, look at the men who fill these jobs... stupid former athletes like Eric Dickerson or Tony Siragusa. To me, there's no such thing as a craft to sideline reporters and they don't have any sports savvy...they just happen to be the best-looking or most celebrated people, and there's nothing wrong with it. They're just there to add a bit of entertainment to the game. It's like complaining about the fact teams don't hire cheerleaders based on the size of their brains. So if I were you, I'd aspire to be more than that (it seems you already are) and forget about who gets sideline reporting jobs.

At Thursday, April 19, 2007, Blogger ji said...

I should have added in my blog that I want to be a sports journalist who gets recognized for talent, not race or gender. And as for sideline reporters, yeah there may be some celebrity involved but please....the reason players are on the field is because they can talk strategy. Yeah, the best people to be sports commentators and on the sidelines are former players.

At Thursday, April 19, 2007, Blogger AJS said...

I disagree. They're not there to talk strategy. They're there to interview a coach for 15 seconds at halftime and get a cliched response, or tell me a story about whose mom is in the stands. They're definitely not journalists, and neither former athletes nor Playboy bunnies can make sideline reporting interesting to me. I think it should just be eliminated altogether, and women with talent are more than welcome to compete with me for play-by-play and anchoring jobs.

At Friday, April 20, 2007, Blogger AG said...

I really hate to say this, but we are supposed to speak our minds in these blogs and tell the truth. While I wish all women sports casters the absolute best and I realize they are underrepresented, I have a hard time finding them credible. I just do not understand how a women can really understand football if you've never actually played the game. I have a hard time looking at women on a football field and believing they know what is going on. I think you know so much more about a sport when you have at least played it... that's when you learn strategy and acutally learn the game.
I am probably old fashioned in saying this, but when women are on the football field, you know they've never played the game. How will they talk strategy intelligently?
I do want the best for women in sports reporting, and if you truly know and understand the game, then more power to you!

At Friday, April 20, 2007, Blogger AM said...

This blog is so refreshing after we all talked about Virginia Tech. JI and KY brought up so many interesting points, as did AG. Bravo! I am almost too Virginia Tech-ed out to say anymore.

At Saturday, April 21, 2007, Blogger J? said...

I tend to agree with ajs about sideline reporting. It is so devoid of actual substance that I wish it would go away. But first I want to address this whole issue with looks. It is not limited to women, and though the discourse might be more crass, it absolutely exists with male anchors. Some guy during the first Gulf War was nicknamed the Scud Stud. I know it's not sports, but let's not be naive, it exists. But since when are good looks a bad thing? Is it bad that having good looks could get somebody ahead? You referenced Suzyn Waldman, the color commentator for New York Yankees radio broadcasts. She has been a Yankees reporter for a long time, and is quite established in the market. But did you know that she was an actress and singer beforehand. Not exactly traditional journalism training, or the type of thing that the Yankees look for in a radio person. And I think that's part of her appeal and great. Additionally, isn't it a good thing for women that they are being encouraged to apply for these jobs? Doesn't something like that help Waldman get into the buisness? Let's look at one example here in Chicago of diversity in sportscasting. WMAQ-NBC5 has an african-american male sports anchor, a caucasian female sports anchor and caucasian male sports anchor. I think that's pretty good. Or how about Fox 5 in New York, fast becoming the #1 lcoal news station in America's biggest city. Their lead sports anchor? Reischea Candidate, an African American female. Or how about Pam Ward who does play by play for ESPN college football. I think my point is, the sportscasting world is doing an ok, more can always be done but I think its going ok. I think I am exceptionally qualified for a job in sportscasting, but there are things that will hold me back even though I'm a male. Who's the last redhead you saw on television as a lead anchor? But I digress. I think what the moral of the story is, sportscasting is hard for everybody to break into. Men and women. And no one is out there encouraging me to apply for these jobs.

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