By Sarah Barshop
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Though we are seeing more and more women on air in the television world, not that many are being hired to cover sports.
The appearance is that there are a lot of women, but “the visibility in TV is a blessing and a curse,” Marie Hardin, a professor and associate director of the Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, said as she led the AWSM convention’s Friday morning discussion, “Women, TV and Finding Success.”
The panel brought together four women — Jody Jackson and Cindy Brunson from Fox Sports Arizona, Lesley Visser from CBS Sports and Romy Titus from SuperSport — who have had visibility around the world.
“Most people think the numbers have gone up dramatically,” Hardin said.
They have not.
Hardin began the panel discussion with a statistic: Fewer women are in sports television than are in the U.S. military.
When Visser first decided she wanted to be a sports reporter, it was unheard of for a girl to even dream about that job. Visser said it was like saying she wanted “to go the moon.” But sometimes, she said, “you have to cross when it says ‘Don’t walk.’ ”
Brunson, offering similar sentiments, shared the best advice she received.
“You can hear the word ‘no,’ but you don’t have to listen,” Brunson said. “Someone’s going to think you can’t do something, but you just have to keep going.”
Though Visser and Brunson faced challenges while starting their careers, Titus said that in South Africa, she still faces those challenges today and frequently.
“As a woman, you’re not respected at all,” Titus said. “Even though my knowledge is the same or better than (the men), they get the respect.
“I work 10 times harder on every game to learn statistics because they’re (the critics are) just waiting.”
Jackson knows all about that hard work. She said she remains “fanatical about reading everything.” She said that when she was getting ready to cover hockey, she read the rule book, because she figured everything she would need to know would be in there.
Brunson told the story of planning a vacation to England around seeing four Premier League soccer matches so she could improve her knowledge of the sport.
“Know the sport you hate the most the best, and you won’t run into any problems,” Brunson said.
Still, the most important thing the panel discussed was supporting the other women in the business. Titus said she wishes for an Association for Women in Sports Media in South Africa because there really isn’t any support there. She said “maybe 20” women are in sports television across the country, but “it’s not like there’s a sisterhood.”
Visser said she hopes all the women in the room learn to help each other out.
“We all used to think when we started that there was only one piece of the pie. Let’s all make the pie together,” Visser said.