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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Northwestern Panel Discusses Issues in Sports Journalism for Women

Four female leaders in sports journalism recently participated in a panel hosted by Northwestern University to give advice to female students interested in pursuing the field, and placed major importance on the focus of the quality of reporting.

Pam Oliver, Rachel Nichols, Christine Brennan and Cassidy Hubbarth participated in “The Female Voice in Sports Media,” an installment of the “Beyond the Box Score” lecture series at Northwestern University. These four women, all prominent women in sports media, offered up their beliefs about being a female and working in sports journalism.

One of the most important topics covered in the lecture that all women addressed was the importance of putting the practices of quality reporting and journalism first.

Pam Oliver, a reporter for Fox Sports and Turner Sports, addressed the issue head on in her opening statement with the panel. Oliver opened up by saying, “It’s a small club of women who put journalism first. They’re not in it to be celebrities or big on Twitter. You can tell when someone is serious with what they are doing. You can tell when someone is putting in the hours to get to know the players and coaches beyond just the smiling and using your looks, or you know, assets to get where you’re going.”

Oliver then went on to comment on what she sees as a current problem in the field of journalism: the hiring of women based on image and look alone. “I think there’s a definite pattern that we’re seeing all across the board with a certain look and a certain quality that papers and media outlets are going after,” Oliver said.

She concluded by saying, “You want to be a journalist for the right reasons. I hope you guys in this room are willing to do the work.”

Oliver’s passion for the focus on the practice of journalism relates to personal experience. Oliver, who served as the long time sideline reporter for NFL on FOX’s top broadcasting team, was taken off the team and replaced by Erin Andrews in 2014. Individuals have speculated that there are other reasons for the replacement of Oliver with Andrews, namely for Oliver’s age and the attractiveness of Andrews.

Brennan, sports columnist for USA Today and the moderator of the panel, commented on the matter, saying, “It seems like for a lot of these people, it is all about looks. Well, looks come and go.”

Sports journalism and print media as a whole has long been dominate by males. This panel at Northwestern highlights a problem that plagues the field of journalism, and these panelists are women who are working to reverse the male-dominated trend in the field. The advice offered up from this conference does not just apply to aspiring female journalists at Northwestern, but all across the country.

View the full “Beyond the Box Score: The Female Voice in Sports Media” here.

The University of Wisconsin Center for Journalism Ethics will be devoting its annual conference to the subject of ethics in sports journalism this April. The conference, titled Fair or Foul: Ethics and Sports Journalism, will cover a wide array of ethical issues and questions in journalism within a sports context on April 10, 2015 at Union South on the UW-Madison campus.  


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