By Stacy Bauman
This is the final piece of a four-part series on the founding members of the Association for Women in Sports Media.
Kristin Huckshorn is a freelance editor, producer and writer with more than three decades of experience in print, digital and television media. Most recently, Huckshorn was senior editor and coordinating producer at ESPN. Prior to that, she was deputy sports editor at The New York Times and a foreign correspondent for Knight-Ridder Newspapers Inc. Huckshorn began her career as the first female sportswriter at the San Jose Mercury News, where she covered the NFL, college sports and the Olympics. She was a political reporter for Knight-Ridder in Washington D.C., and also covered major national and international events including civil wars in Somalia and Bosnia. Huckshorn was honored in 2006 with AWSM’s Mary Garber Pioneer Award.
In 1994, she opened the first U.S. newspaper bureau in Vietnam since the Vietnam War and covered Southeast Asia for K-R from her post in Hanoi. An Indiana University graduate, Huckshorn lives in the New York City area with her husband, Dr. Martin Doerfler, and her 15-old-old son, Jack Quang-Huy Larimer. Sadly, she and Jack root for the Mets.
What was your motivation for founding AWSM?
“Frustration, for one. In the world of sports journalism, the 80s were still the dark ages. There were few women, usually one or none on a staff, and basic issues like locker room access had not been resolved. I worked for the San Jose Mercury News and covered college football and basketball and the 49ers. While home teams — Stanford, the Niners mostly — were receptive to us, away teams often were not. Visiting an away locker room felt like marching across a new battleground each week. Physical and verbal harassment were the norm.
“I also knew that the Bay Area (and Southern California) was Eden for female sports journalists. There were a lot of us and it was common to have several in a press box at one time. I knew how much strength we took from that support. I wanted to somehow share that with other women across the country. Several of us kept bumping into one another and talking about “forming a club.” Finally, after a Niners game in San Francisco, myself, Susan Fornoff, Nancy Cooney and Michele Himmelberg met for a dinner near Candlestick Park, ordered champagne and toasted to our new organization. Michele came up with the name.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in founding AWSM?
“As Chris Brennan recently noted, those were indeed the communications dark ages. We had old-fashioned phones and fax machines. Our newsletter was typed, copied and mailed; we clearly helped keep the U.S. Postal Service out of debt for a decade. Susan and I would sit on my living room floor and stuff and stamp envelopes. My husband — now my ex — helped with the mailings for years. This was not the cause of our divorce.
“Our other challenge was credibility. How could we give our organization gravitas? That was one reason we decided to hold a convention. We wanted to bring as many women as possible together to find common ground on our mission and values and to let others know that we spoke as one.”
What is your favorite memory from the first year or first convention?
“Because it was the Bay Area, we decided to bring in a new-age female speaker to talk about controlling stress. She stood in front of the room and told us that in stressful moments we should close our eyes and think about our own “Island of Peace.” She closed her eyes, raised her hands and hummed. I imagined standing in the middle of an NFL locker room humming and I started to laugh. Everyone around me was trying not to laugh — and failing. Later that night, we gathered in our first hospitality suite to toast and talk about the day. As the night and drinking wore on, Lesley Visser declared that the hospitality suite was in fact the true Island of Peace. It has remained that ever since.”
How do you feel AWSM has most benefited women in sports media?
“I believe that AWSM’s single greatest accomplishment is the scholarship program. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to have helped pick interns like Rachel Nichols and Kelly Whiteside, who have gone on to fantastic careers. Today’s interns just blow me away with their talents and smarts. They are so much more together than I was at that age. And they all have better hair.”
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing women in the field today?
“The most troubling result to me is that newsrooms are shrinking, meaning less hires and less movement within. Fewer women are hired and fewer move up to column positions or top beats. There is still pressure on executive editors and sports editors to improve newsroom diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, but there is no longer pressure to improve gender bias in sports departments. The New York Times has had one female sports editor in its history and that was 30 years ago. Never has a woman led the sports departments at The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe. It is heartening when a network like CNN decides to bring in one major sports journalist and hires a woman — the talented Rachel Nichols. But that is the exception. My view is that other than the scholarship project, AWSM should increasingly focus on positive ways to push editors toward hiring and promoting women at a time of industry contraction.”