By MARY CLARKE
Paola Boivin and Jesse Dieffenbach are likely the first mother-daughter member tandem in AWSM. Boivin is a sports columnist for The Arizona Republic who lives in Arizona and Dieffenbach is a communications intern for the University of Oregon athletic department and vice president of Oregon’s AWSM student chapter. She is a senior at Oregon.
The pair aren’t alone either, as Dieffenbach’s father, Jay, is also a sports journalist. With such an interesting family dynamic, we asked Boivin and Dieffenbach about their unique experiences in this field and what they’ve learned from each other as a mother-daughter duo.
1. What has it been like having your mother working in the sports media world alongside you? Conversely, what’s it been like having your daughter in the industry?
Dieffenbach: It has been incredibly helpful to have someone who knows the ins and outs being a woman in the sports media world. She is always there to offer advice and feedback on my work. Recently, my mom and I were both in the press box at an Oregon vs. Arizona State game; she was writing for the Arizona Republic, and I was working for my internship at Oregon’s athletic department. It was a really cool experience.
Boivin: Amazing, particularly because she found this path on her own. She grew up surrounded by the business — my husband is also a sports journalist — and I think she wanted to forge her own way. But after testing the waters in other majors, I think she realized how much she enjoyed the environment of sports. The energy. The inspiration. Those tales of overcoming adversity that never end. And she has always gravitated toward helping people, so sports public relations is an ideal field for her.
2. What drew you to a career in sports journalism?
Dieffenbach: I actually rebelled against the idea of working in sports for a long time. I wanted to be an outlier, and not follow my parents’ career path, because what fun would that be? However, once I started doing sports (track and cross country) in school, I realized what a pivotal part they played in my education; the passion was there all along, I was just afraid to admit it. I started college as a business major, but then got an internship with the Oregon Women’s Basketball media team. That was a huge turning point for me, and I realized sports journalism was something that I really wanted to get involved in. The fast pace and unpredictability of sports really drew me in.
Boivin: The moments I shared with my father at White Sox games. He always seemed at his happiest when we were at Comiskey Park, a contrast to the guy who came home tired everyday from the train at 7 p.m. He was great then, too, but there was a change in his expression when we went to the ballpark. I wanted to feel that when I grew up and started a career.
3. What’s the best thing you’ve learned from each other about the industry?
Dieffenbach: The best, and certainly most important, thing I have learned is definitely how to carry myself with confidence. I work in an extremely male-dominated section of sports media, sports information. My job got a lot easier when I became more confident in my work, because it helped me realize that I am just as good at what I do as the men who I work with.
Boivin: The hard work people in sports media relations put in behind the scenes. The long hours etc … I think she has also humanized athletes for me with her positive stories about how they are away from the media spotlight.
4. In your experience, has this mother-daughter connection made it easier or harder to traverse the sports journalism world?
Dieffenbach: It has been easier on the surface, but sometimes it’s difficult in my personal life. I never want to be the person who receives better opportunities than someone who has equal credentials because of my family connections. However, my mom has blazed a path for me to follow, and she is always there for me when I get stuck.
Boivin: Easier because I think there is great value in learning how the people in media relations I deal with on almost a daily basis do their jobs. I understand now why it might take a little longer to receive a return phone call. And I appreciate those statistics and quote sheets I receive during and after games that I took for granted.
5. What advice would you give to sports journalism students like you and your daughter?
Dieffenbach: Two things: The most cliche, try everything. I never thought I would be interested in sports information or statistics — I thought I would be a writer. Yet, here I am, working for a sports information department. The second thing would be to get involved and find a community. It is vital to have a support system within the sports media world, especially with women. My AWSM exec board is incredible, and I can always count on them to help me out when I’m in a tough spot.
Boivin: Be strong in the face of adversity and remind yourself that you belong. Great strides have been made for women in this business but skeptics remain. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s better to try and stumble then not try at all. Inhale those moments when you get to stand on the sidelines, or accompany an athlete to a press conference, and respect what a great career this is.