Along with the declining art of newspapers, women and people of color in sports journalism are still facing structural issues, according to the executive director of Seton Hall’s Center for Sports Media (CSM).
Despite initiatives such as the #MeToo movement, female reporters are still confined to certain roles in the sports media industry, panelist Jane McManus, executive director of CSM and Deadspin columnist, said at a sports panel discussion hosted by Lambda Pi Eta on March 22.
“Once you’re in the business, you understand that there are a lot of unseen forces that can either bestow opportunities or withhold them,” McManus said. “Women in our business are still valued too much for their looks and not enough for their expertise.”
McManus said there is a need for “true parity and equity” regarding the hiring and treatment of people within sports media. She said she watched several women enter the field and lose hope because of sexism, harassment and rejection on the job.
“It puts the onus on the young women who come into the business to have a thicker skin, to watch out for themselves a little bit more and to create community among themselves,” McManus said.
Especially for women and minorities, sports reporting requires a certain “finesse” because stability is not guaranteed, McManus said.
“People hire you after they see your work and after they think they can trust you to cover sports,” McManus said. “The way you go about doing that is by taking a lot of jobs that are not very glamorous.”
Panelist B.J. Schecter, Baseball America editor and publisher, and former Sports Illustrated editor, said people of all different backgrounds bring a new perspective to sports media among other industries.
“For all the women out there, listen to those who tell you that you can,” Schecter said. “Do women belong in the locker room? Yes, it’s a free press. They have every right to be there as any one of us.”
Schecter said it is important for minority groups to “tune out” negativity in favor of embracing their capabilities.
“We live in a superficial society,” Schecter said. “But when you cut through all that mess, there’s a place for talented people, no matter what they look like or what gender they are.”
Schecter said, along with these limits, the path that he and other journalists once embarked on no longer exists. He said, while there are more opportunities in the modern world, it can be a “lot harder to break into the industry.”
“There’s a lot more outlets, but there’s a lot more noise,” Schecter said.
Accordingly, Schecter said local newspapers that were once the “lifebloods of the community” are fading.
“There are great stories to be told everywhere,” Schecter said. “It’s not just the star football or basketball player. It’s the track athlete. It’s the bowler. It’s the star of the gymnastics team or the new women’s wrestling team.”
At its core, sports journalism is about interacting with people and obtaining a sense of who they are, McManus said.
“It’s not just about writing about the games,” McManus said. “It’s about writing about the people.”