Last week, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism hosted a a panel titled, “The Female Voice of Sports Media.” The panel featured Pam Oliver, Rachel Nichols, USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, and ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth.
One of the things that Oliver impressed upon the audience was that true journalism has to be the impetus behind a career in the field – not the attractiveness of becoming a celebrity.
“It’s a small club of women (in sports media) who put journalism first,” Oliver said. “They’re not in it to be celebrities or big on Twitter. You can tell when someone is serious with what they are doing. You can tell when someone is putting in the hours to get to know the players and coaches beyond just using your looks, or you know, your assets.
“I wish some of the hiring practices would improve. There’s a definite pattern with a certain look and certain quality that the outlets are going after.”
Oliver raised a very interesting and important point in her address to the audience. People who study journalism and pursue a career in the field should be doing it for the right reasons, which are to hone their craft and inform the public about various issues. Oliver criticized the journalism industry’s apparent desire to employ sideline reporters based on looks rather than talent and knowledge.
Brennan added that many of the aspiring female journalists she encounters want to be the next Erin Andrews on TV, not the next accomplished columnist.
It’s not a bad thing for women to want to be sideline reporters, as most of the ones we see on TV are indeed women. However, as time progresses and more women become prominent for their work as columnists or other positions within journalism, I hope to see more young journalists aspire to be like them too. I think it will encourage these women to work as hard as they can to become the best journalist they can be, which will in turn strengthen the industry as a whole.