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ESPN ponders the future of female sports journalism

Tue, Mar 28th 2017 07:00 pm
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 This past week, ESPN announced that football sideline reporter, Samantha Ponder will officially be taking over as the hostess of the networks "Sunday NFL Countdown." You might be wondering why this is so exciting so I'll get right to the point: no woman has ever hosted this show in its 32 years of existence until now.

According to thinkprogress.org ESPN is the leading driver of diversity in sports journalism. However that isn't saying much when there are say only eleven female sports editors to begin with and six of them are employed by ESPN. The female employee ratio compared to that of its male counter-ratio isn't as fair as it may be perceived either with many female sportscasters being hired as sideline reporters and left in that position as men with the same credentials are either hired initially for a higher-up position or see a promotion much sooner.

The position Ponder is fulfilling for "Sunday NFL Countdown" was previously held by longtime NFL host Chris Berman who is in the middle of transitioning from the voice/face of some of the network's most popular shows to a more "public-facing" role, according to the website excellesports.com.

Ponder has more than enough experience warding off the sexist, misogynistic comments that women in any male-dominated field of work are privy to. So taking on this role that is stereotypically male is not only a sense of success for past, current and future female sports reporters but also herself. She's been working as a college football reporter since 2012, that's five years of hard work without seeing a promotion like this, persevering through the stigma that female sportscasters can't possibly understand the game and are there for their looks alone.

It isn't only sports media or sports media networks who are still trying to diminish the gender wage gap in their companies. According to womensmediacenter.com, 68 percent of The New York Times' and The Denver Post's 2014 publications were written by men, 61 percent of The Washington Post's 2014 publications had a male byline, and 60 percent of the LA Times' publications made in 2014 were written by men.

For young female journalists these statistics will either intimidate you or make you strive harder to achieve your career goals. Jemele Hill, a young female sports journalist for ESPN, had an interview with ESPN's Mike and Mike in which she not only encouraged young women, like herself, pursuing sports journalism but also gave them some advice.

Within the interview Hill said the questions that she receives most pertain to dealing with social media and the negative comments that come with it, for young female journalists of color they worry about fitting the image that many sports networks have painted for their female journalists, thin, white, blonde and any woman who doesn't fit that look stresses a little about that, but most importantly female journalists are worried about whether or not their voices, their opinions will be respected.

To this Hill said, "I hate to tell them this because I hate to feel like I'm empowering those people who shouldn't do it anyways but as I'd say to them, it's an unfortunate part of the business and you do have to develop a thick skin for it otherwise it will be difficult for you to survive."

This reality that women have had to be the ones to make the changes in order to break down gender barriers is disheartening. The fact that the media industry as we see it today in America began with the first established colonies as they developed pamphlets and then newspapers to deliver news to the consumer. We have come a long way technologically from then but the fact that women are still not seen as equals in an industry which has existed for hundreds of years is ridiculous.

The reason more women are becoming sports reporters for big name networks is not necessarily because the media companies/corporations have made significant changes, although there have been "diversity" requirements that come with the title of "equal-opportunity employer," instead it is because women have decided they are not going to wait for the industry to change they are going to change it themselves by persevering through sexual objectification, sexual harassment and blatantly sexist/misogynistic commentary whether it be from their colleagues or social media.

Women like Ponder, Hill and Ponder's soon-to-be co-host Suzanne Kolber, are all examples of women who have continued to break away at the glass ceiling of sports journalism that was created before they were even born. For all young female journalists, whether you want to go into sports media or some other facet of journalism, this is a silver lining.


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