By ALLIE KESSEL
Jennifer Overman entered James Madison University in the fall of 1991 wanting to become a war correspondent, yet found her way into sports journalism through the Association for Women in Sports Media.
Now, she has been elected as the organization’s president.
Originally from Richmond, Va., Overman grew up a Washington sports fan, but always thought of sports more as a pastime than a career. A friend from James Madison introduced Overman to AWSM after she spent a few years working for a small newspaper in Petersburg, Va. Overman agreed to apply to a handful of the jobs AWSM suggested and later landed a job at the Hartford Courant in 1998 as a sports copy editor.
“A big impetus to joining AWSM were my bosses at the Courant,” said Overman, who worked at the Courant for 11 years. “The Courant was a big supporter and encouraged me to join AWSM and even offered to send me to one of the conventions.”
Overman went on to attend several conventions and immediately felt the kinship AWSM prides itself on.
“It was amazing to talk to people in the same boat,” Overman said. “For a large part of my career, I was often the only woman on the sports desk. Even though I had the support of my colleagues, it was lonely and I felt very isolated.”
After feeling and finding a sense of sisterhood and connection to the women she met over the years, Overman’s involvement with AWSM began to grow.
Once Overman decided to make the transition from print to broadcast journalism, AWSM paved the way. Overman joined ESPN a little over five years ago where she currently works as a studio news editor.
“It was time to do something different,” Overman said. “Being in Connecticut at the Courant where ESPN is was an advantage. They contacted me a few times over the years, and when print began to downsize, I was fortunate the job fell into my lap when it did. I hit a wall with print.”
Even after joining ESPN and immersing herself into the fast-paced world of broadcast journalism, Overman made time to serve on the AWSM board as the administration coordinator in 2012. As its incoming president, Overman continues to make use of the advantages and opportunities the association offers.
“You never know what’s going to happen in your career and it’s great to have a network like AWSM,” said Overman. “The reason I’ve stayed with AWSM so long is because of the connections. People will drop just about everything to help you out and that’s a rare thing.”
Overman ultimately hopes to further enhance and broaden the network during her time as president. AWSM has a healthy student contingent, but Overman feels those in the mid-level career position could use more attention.
“One thing I want to spend more energy and time on is more ways to engage and bring in more professional members and provide value for them,” Overman said.
“I would like to reach out to similar professional groups to make them aware of who we are so we can help each other out. I want to make sure everyone knows they’re welcome. Things used to be static, but now there’s so much overlap. It’s good to draw from a broad group.”
AWSM initially formed more than 25 years ago because there were so few women in the business. Although the original issues may have changed over time, Overman hopes to utilize her new role as an opportunity to continue to bring women together to lean on one other for support, advice and friendship.
“Overall, there’s a kind of kinship here that you don’t find in many places where people put in time, energy and love,” said Overman. “I want to let people know this is one more networking tool and one more connection.”