By Allie Kessel
There’s no doubt women have knocked down several barriers in sports journalism over the years, however, a few distinct ones still need to be addressed. A couple of those areas include women who are employed as play-by-play or color commentators on sports broadcasts, as well as women who are in the booth for major sports programming. George Solomon sat down with me recently to discuss his thoughts on several topics, including the lack of women in sports broadcasting.
It’s an issue that has parallels to the recent news of the Women’s Media Center reporting the proportion of women working in the media has remained mostly unchanged since 1999.
Solomon, the long-time Washington Post sports editor and current director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland, talked about the need for all media to support diversity and hire talented women into journalism.
“ESPN would always say we’re always looking, but the proof is in the pudding,” said Solomon, who became ESPN’s first ombudsman 2005. “But, you do see more women as anchors on ESPN and local television. I will say that.”
Solomon was the assistant managing editor for sports at the Washington Post from 1975-2003, a time when women working full-time in sports was virtually unheard of. While the times have changed since 1975, Solomon says women should remain persistent and break boundaries.
“It’s up to the individual women who want to do this to be aggressive and smart about it and make the people who are doing the hiring aware of their ability,” Solomon said. “It’s not easy. You have to be creative and smart, but it can be done.”
And it has been done. Women such as Pam Ward, Sally Jenkins, Christine Brennan and Katie Carrera, to name a few, have made successful careers for themselves and established reputations that have ultimately taken them far in the business.
Solomon suggests women should focus on building solid reputations as knowledgeable, like-able and relatable sports broadcasters.
“The best people in play-by-play have been around a long time,” Solomon said. “An example is Vin Scully, who’s been doing it since the late 1940s and has a history and people know who he is.”
Solomon, who observed ESPN’s broadcast operations in his role as ombudsman, says it may take time for women to break into play-by-play simply because they haven’t been doing it as long as men have. He says it will also take time to build experience, as well as a reputation to become not only comfortable, but also personable and knowledgeable. Once you accomplish that, you can build up a reputation, Solomon said.
Solomon says he encourages all aspiring female sports journalists to push the professional boundaries and see where it will take them.