BY ANNE DELANEY
CBS Sports reporter Lesley Visser knows about being first.
Visser, a pioneering 40-year veteran of print and broadcast sports journalism, shared her thoughts about the debut of the first all-female national weekly sports television show “We Need To Talk.”
Visser, a charter member of the Association for Women in Sports Media, is a part of the core panel of “We Need To Talk,” which first aired Sept. 30, on CBS Sports Network.
“The show will continue to show that women can handle all kinds of sports topics,” Visser said last month. “It will demonstrate that a group of women can do it together.”
Visser is joined on the panel by: Amy Trask, the first female chief executive officer in the National Football League; Tracy Wolfson, lead reporter for CBS’s NCAA Tournament and NFL coverage; and Allie LaForce, a lead reporter for the SEC on CBS.
The show also includes contributions from female sports journalists and athletes. Visser is one of many AWSM members and individuals with ties to AWSM who are part of the show, including Andrea Kremer, the NFL Network’s chief correspondent for player health and safety. A number of the guests and contributors who will be on the show have either been to AWSM conventions or have spoken on AWSM panels.
“I think a sports show that not only features the perspective and voices of female journalists and athletes but is also produced by women is overdue and very welcome, particularly in this climate,” AWSM president Jennifer Overman said. “So far it’s been refreshing and enlightening, and I look forward to seeing what they do.”
Visser, 61, recently considered “easing off” a career that began in the 1970s, covering the National Football League for The Boston Globe, and evolved to include work at the Final Four and the Super Bowl.
Visser is the first and only woman enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and to handle the Super Bowl trophy presentation.
“When this came up, I thought ‘I can’t miss the history in this,’” said Visser, who has worked for CBS for 25 years. “In my soul, I do think CBS and I … I think we needed each other. I didn’t want to miss history and they didn’t want to move forward without me. In this case, we had a love for each other.”
Visser said the uniqueness of “We Need To Talk” makes it a “cultural pivot point.” She said CBS had been considering the show for about a year. For Visser and friend and CBS colleague Suzanne Smith, the show’s director and co-producer, this has been 20 years in the making. The women, along with Trask, used to talk about sports during social gatherings in New York.
“It was, ‘Can Dallas continue to dominate?,’ or ‘Is this Favre’s time?,’ or whatever the topic would be,” Visser said. “Maybe now it will be Michael Sam or Mo’ne Davis.”
Visser said her commitment to the show was sealed with the approval of two people to whom she owes her own career: CBS executives Les Moonves and Sean McManus. Moonves is the President and Chief Executive Officer for CBS Corporation and McManus is the chairman of CBS Sports.
“It took CBS to have the courage to say, ‘This is the time,’” Visser said. “They said, ‘Now is the time and CBS is the place.’ I’m very proud.”
And there’s nowhere she’d rather be.