By Stacy Bauman
This is the third of a four-part series that focuses on the founding members of the Association for Women in Sports Media.
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Susan Fornoff began her career at the Baltimore News American as a general sports assignment reporter. She went on to cover soccer, the NFL and work on the copy desk at USA Today before joining the Sacramento Bee as the Oakland Athletics writer. Her final newspaper stop was the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, where she spent one year as a copy editor before becoming the golf writer and, later, real estate and home and garden writer and finally, the travel editor.
After leaving the paper, Fornoff started her own digital magazine/publishing company: GottaGoGolf. She has written two books: “Lady in the Locker Room” and “Northern California Golf Getaways,” and is in the process of writing a third called “Confessions of a Golf Slut.” Fornoff currently lives in Oakland, Calif.
What was your motivation for founding ASWM?
“This was something that had been discussed for some time. But in 1986 there was a much-publicized incident where Dave Kingman sent me a rat while the Oakland Athletics were mired in a miserable losing streak in Kansas City. I was a reporter, not a newsmaker, and I was nowhere near prepared for the ensuing brouhaha. My paper, the Sacramento Bee, gave me great support, but what meant most was that when my plane landed in San Francisco, Kristin Huckshorn — then at the San Jose Mercury News — was there to pick me up and take me to the impressionist exhibition at the de Young (museum). I knew she, more than anyone, could understand.
I thought about how women in sports media were so scattered — few and far between in less enlightened parts of the country — and did not have anywhere to turn for support. I guess my motivation was to pay it forward, and to help create a network for all women in sports media.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in founding AWSM?
“I would say creating that first list, because, we were all so scattered and did not know each other. Also, there was some discussion about not wanting to call attention to ourselves as women because we were above all journalists, not women journalists. I suspect there were a few women who did not join or joined late because of that reason.”
What is your favorite memory from the first year or first convention?
“Don Baylor, Ronnie Lott and Tony La Russa all made a big hit on panels. Baylor and Lott because they were so hilariously honest and big-brotherish, and La Russa was so earnest and super-professional. I think it gave a boost to everyone in the room because we were more used to hearing that we didn’t belong. These guys were telling us they were happy to have nice-smelling, well-mannered women demonstrating that a sports journalist could also have a little class.”
How do you feel AWSM has most benefited women in sports media?
“The official, spokeswoman role has been very important in drawing lines against discrimination and harassment. But I think more important has been all of the networking that goes on among members, especially at the convention and at big media sporting events.”
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing women in the field today?
“I believe the biggest challenge remains building both career and family. That is probably not much different in sports media than in other professions, except the excess of night and weekend work takes a toll. I would like to see AWSM sharing some of the success stories and secrets of the members who have found strategies to manage both. A second big challenge: the changing definition of “media,” which has resulted in jobs disappearing and pay plummeting. I think AWSM can play a role in the survival of journalism by advocating high standards of professionalism by all.”