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Inexperienced, aspiring women sportscasters tell us how they broke into TV fresh out of school

 

Young women who aspire to become sportscasters will occasionally have some convincing to do. Less so today perhaps than a generation ago but biases still exist. No employer will go public saying so or admit to it but those who hire are often hesitant.

We spoke with women sports anchors who embarked either recently or within the last decade or so. They shared their varied and interesting experiences breaking into the business.

We present them in alphabetical order:

Jourdan Black (40/90 News in Rogers, Arkansas)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Jourdan Black (@JourdanBlack) | TwitterAny sportscaster will say they love Doris Burke because of her humility, knowledge and hard work.

There was a local broadcaster in my Miami market, Tony Segreto. I loved him. He sounded the same on television as he did in person. I wrote him a letter in first grade. I have always adored the trait, being the same person on TV as you are off it.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

When I was five, I told my mom I wanted to be a news anchor. I saw someone anchoring on TV, and I asked, ‘What is that job?’ and my mom told me, ‘She’s a news anchor.’ I’ve never wavered and here we are 21 years later. I went to college for broadcasting and really had a passion for sports.

I love how positive sports is; it’s generally good news. It matches my personality.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

Why I wanted to be in this business and what I can bring to the table. This is not a glamourous business or the most lucrative, but if you have passion you can make it.

Kendra Douglas (WESH 2 in Orlando, Florida)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

For the longest time, I looked up to Robin Roberts. I still look up to her, and I have always loved how she handles herself in the business, both on and off the camera. She has so much energy and demonstrates to women that we can do it all if we put our minds to it.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

I wanted to be a journalist. My mom was in the business, so I caught the journalism bug early. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and ran track for UNC-Chapel Hill. An awful lot of people in my family played college football or basketball at the Division I level, or went into coaching. My grandad even owned a baseball team in the Negro Leagues. I was bound to end up around sports, one way or another.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

I don’t think so, but then again, I think I have developed an immunity to the word. I won’t allow anyone to stop me from reaching my goals. I have always had that competitive drive mindset so I tune out people who might try to limit me. 

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

How can I be an asset to the team? How do you find stories and not just show highlights? I think that’s one question that I consistently get because EVERYONE is posting highlights. News Directors want to know that you can also be a good storyteller and that you can bring something different to the table.

Remi Monaghan (KTEN in Denison, Texas)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Remi Monaghan (@RemiMonaghan) | TwitterI would have to say Jennifer Hammond. She is a local sports reporter in Detroit, at the FOX affiliate. She’s worked in Detroit since I was a kid. Growing up, she was on the TV station we always had on in my house. When I grew up, I saw more of Lisa Byington, Doris Burke and Holly Rowe. Once I knew I wanted to be on TV, I started doing research of powerful women on TV.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

In a team productions class at my high school, we had a TV show called “Shot Clock,” which was a spinoff of ESPN’s Around the Horn. I was the host, and I had athletes as panelists. We debated different topics. I did the walkup songs and I was the announcer for the baseball team my senior year.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

My area is very rural where there’s this guy who blames women for wanting to work in a male dominated industry. I also get a lot of really small microaggressions like, “Where is the cameraman? Isn’t that heavy?” I personally choose not to go into a locker room. Even if I just have to grab a coach, I send someone in there for me.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

Because I grew up in Michigan, Texas high school football is so different. We talked a lot about how big it is in this area.

Alyssa Orange (KNWA/KARK in Northwest and Central Arkansas)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Alyssa Orange | KNWA-TV (Fayetteville, AR) Journalist | Muck RackThere weren’t a whole lot of women in sports when I was younger. At the time, there was Suzy Kolber, and when I was in college Erin Andrews was doing the Game Day show. I didn’t necessarily look up to Erin, but she was a woman in the industry. My dad worked in a television newsroom as a director until I was about 18, so I knew that I wanted to be in that world.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

I liked the storytelling aspect and producing a piece that draws emotion, whether it’s a highlight reel or a feel-good story about an athlete. When I graduated Florida State, local television was about the only route to go.

I started as a morning show producer, became a news /internet reporter, and when there was an opening, I was ready and stepped into the role.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

I have an example, and it’s something that has stuck with me. It was early on and it was when I was hired to be an anchor in Tallahassee. I had never live anchored before on camera. My news director sat me down out of pure support and told me, ‘I want to let you know this is going to be harder for you than it will be for your male counterpart. You’re going to go on television and you’re going to make mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes, but if you mispronounce a name, the station is going to get phone calls saying you shouldn’t be on TV. If your male counterpart makes the same mistake, everyone is going to brush it off. You have to work ten times harder.’ He told me that in 2009, and I still remember it. That stuck and fueled me to work harder.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

When I got hired in Abilene, one of the questions was ‘What’s one of your weaknesses?’ I responded that I can come on a little headstrong. Those are the kind of things smaller markets are going to ask you. They aren’t looking for top talent, they’re looking for people they think can fit into a newsroom and whom they can make into better talent.

When I got my job in Fayetteville, it was more about my storytelling ability. I was walking into a sports department of five people. They had guys great at analyzing and editing. That interview was about my storytelling and the emotion therein. It was more about my skillset.

Ruthie Polinsky (WTVJ TV in Miami, Florida)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Headed Down I-95 — FTVLiveMy role models have changed and evolved as I’ve progressed in my career, but I always looked up to Erin Andrews, Doris Burke, Tracy Wolfson, and Dianna Russini.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

Growing up, I always loved musical theatre, dance, and performance. I loved the idea of having an audience and telling a story. I also always loved watching sports and being a fan. Sports broadcasting combines my love for both performing and storytelling.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

Thankfully, I have not faced much resistance. I do believe that my credibility is much more fragile than that of a man, so I work hard in my preparation. My image and appearance is often more criticized than that of men.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

In all three of my jobs, I have been asked various questions about my sports knowledge. But at the end of the day, managers want to know about your passion for the job and your work ethic. If you have a good attitude and show that you are willing and excited about growing, it is not hard to make a good impression.

Rachel Richlinski (In-Arena for Colorado Avalanche & Altitude TV in Denver, Colorado)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

ABOUT ME | rachelrichlinskiI don’t know if I really had one because I didn’t know I wanted to be a sports reporter until I got to college. Today Jane Slater (CBS and NFL Network) is is my favorite. She did the grind at local news, and eventually got into local sports and her career boomed. She’s so smooth.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

I love being able to tell a story through video. That’s what pulled me to the broadcast side instead of print. I’m a graduate of LSU, and they have Tiger Television on campus, which is a student run TV station. That’s a way to get your feet wet and see if you like the industry.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

I think people have to be careful when answering this. Of course, I’ve been treated differently, but it’s not always a bad thing. I have plenty of stories that I can’t tell because things that have been said to me are pretty awful. I’ve been pretty fortunate though that I haven’t been told those things by employers.

There is one specific story that comes to mind. I went to a high school football practice when I was a multimedia journalist in Mississippi. This high school was one of the best teams in the state. I showed up at practice wearing jeans, Converse, a work polo, a hat and no makeup. I was dressed normally, not asking for attention. A gesture by an assistant coach was made behind me. It obviously made me very uncomfortable, but I was in a position where if I said anything, I wouldn’t be welcome at practices anymore, so I never did. That one instance stands out. It never put me in a place where I couldn’t do my job, but it made it uncomfortable.

I was an AP Top 25 Voter for College Football a few years ago, and my emails were often flooded with “I can’t believe you voted for this school. Get back to the kitchen.” So there’s always going to be stupid comments, but it doesn’t make me not want to work in sports anymore.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

One of the questions they asked, which I really appreciated was “What do you do in your free time?” and “Who are you as a person?” It gave me a breather and an opportunity to express to my co-workers who I am as a person off camera. At the end of the day, these are your co-workers, and they want to know you.

Alex Sims (WLNS-TV/6 News in Lansing, Michigan)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Alex Sims Facebook, Twitter & MySpace on PeekYouBonnie Bernstein. I grew up loving her because she was one of the first females to break into a male-dominated field. I loved her feature pieces, and I loved how she was able to give people a voice. She was my number one.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

I knew I wanted to do this since 7th grade. I love sports, and I love creative writing. I put the two together.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

When I first got into the business, there were very few females. Now, more and more women are continuing to break the glass ceiling in this field. It feels like more of an advantage today to be a female because you stand out.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

I’ve had many ‘What are your strengths?’ and ‘What are your weaknesses?’ It depends on what and where the job is. You just have to be prepared. Know what the job is and what sports you’ll be covering.

Taylor Tannebaum (13Sports WTHR in Indianapolis, Indiana)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Suzy Kolber and Linda Cohn. Erin Andrews was the one who was really starting to come to the forefront. She was the sideline girl who was beautiful, but sporty and knowledgeable. She made it seem that it was attainable for anybody; for women who couldn’t go on to play professional sports, to be respected, well-liked and knowledgeable. I went to Florida State, where College Football Gameday would show up often. That is when I realized this is 100% what I want to chase.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

I grew up in the sports world. My dad owned sports memorabilia stores down in South Florida called The Sports Arena. We had tickets to everything; Heat, Marlins,  Panthers and Dolphins. I was always at sporting events and at my dad’s store. Sports brings people together in a way I don’t think anything else can. I also love people and their stories. I am naturally inquisitive, so what I came to find is that everyone has a story to tell.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

I have been very lucky in the markets where I worked. There are definitely people who will assume when you walk into a room, that you’re in it for the glitz and the glam, which is not this job at all.

When I looked around at Colts practice the other day, I was the only female with about 16-20 media members there. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable, I just noticed we are still outnumbered. On the other hand, there are unsolicited comments. There are athletes and coaches who message me in a way they would never message a male reporter. I will say that as a female I do get some stories because men would prefer to talk to a female. Overall, I’ve had pretty great support in the industry.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

They made me solve a Rubik’s Cube because they had seen me do it on the internet.  Everything you post on social media will be seen. It is a direct reflection of who you are, what you stand for and how hard you work.

Samaria Terry (WREG in Memphis, Tennessee)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Samaria Terry | WJTVActually, when I was younger, I didn’t want to be a reporter. But, the one person I remember was Pam Oliver because she looked like me. She was the first black female sports reporter I remember who was on a major platform.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

I started as a physics major at Auburn but changed to communications. As a sophomore, I became a Tigerette, or a student recruiter for Auburn’s football program, that brought me closer to sports. Then during my senior year, I was a part of the inaugural class called Video Sports Production, that is where I really envisioned myself on the sidelines covering sports in some capacity.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

I remember being invited as a guest on a podcast and one of the reporters asked me if I actually knew sports. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I would be asked if I knew what I was talking about. I always tell people: I have to have knowledge of the sports I’m covering as a woman in this industry.

I’ve also had instances where I have been asked on dates by people I was interviewing. Unfortunately, because I declined, when it was time for me to reach out to them again for another interview that was thrown back in my face.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

I did get a few unconventional questions like, ‘What is my favorite movie?’ The good thing is, I believe as long as you’re being yourself, you’ll never have a bad answer to a question.

Lauren Walsh (WXII 12 News in Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

Who was your role model in the sports industry when you were younger?

Lauren Walsh (@lauwalsh10) | TwitterMy first sports broadcasting role model I can recall was Doris Burke. I’ve always been captivated by the NBA and very passionate about watching and learning about the league, so I was drawn to Doris’ coverage right away.

What made you want to be a sports broadcaster?

I always really enjoyed writing and storytelling. In high school, my softball coach/teacher suggested I take his video production class, and that’s how I tied it all together. I realized I was fascinated by the pairing of words and images to tell a story, especially in sports.

Have you run into resistance because you’re a woman?

Resistance? No. Hesitation? Yes. Objectification? Yes.

I have not run into resistance, as in, someone resisting giving me a chance because I’m a woman. Or, if that was ever a factor, I was not aware of it. However, I have experienced hesitation from those in the industry, whether it be from managers or peers, seemingly from some primitive and absurd notion that women naturally can’t do sports the way men can. Objectification comes from every direction, but usually from viewers. The comments never cease and neither do the feelings of discomfort and frustration, but I rely on my self-worth and a strong support system to reassure myself that my work matters, and that’s how I hope to be judged.

What kind of questions were you asked at your interview?

I’ve been asked a lot of questions specific to the station, area, and local teams. I always do lots of research, so I’m prepared for all three of those topics.

 

 

 

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Amelia Holland

Amelia Holland is pursuing a degree in Marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and certificates in Digital Studies and Sports Communication through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Amelia will graduate in 2022 and hopes to pursue a career in sports marketing, journalism or broadcasting.

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