Did Sports Illustrated senior writer reveal a bias to hire women? Isn’t it really about time for all sports media to do so?

There is a fascinating discussion on gender bias taking place on Twitter among several talented sports writers. No shocker: social media sees this as a black-and-white issue, but there are several gray areas as well.

Is it OK to hire and promote women over men, even if the industry is disproportionately one-sided? That’s a notion that has been discussed for many decades – even if there has been nominal progress. Sports journalism remains men-centric even though we educators have noticed extraordinary interest among women in covering sports. We now get large numbers at the CMI Sports Reporting Workshop, women pack sessions on sports coverage at College Media Association conferences and more women are taking our sports media courses here at Eastern Illinois University. (Shameless plug: we have elevated our sports program to a major starting Fall 2018).

Women are finally in the booth to announce baseball and World Cup soccer, and they are taking bigger roles in presenting many other sports over the air. There is still much to do in TV –– as well as in and radio and print. This Twitter debate, though, appears to center around women working in print- or digital-centric positions, as exemplified by this tweet:

http://awfulannouncing.com/si/ed-werder-will-die-on-the-hill-that-female-representation-in-sports-media-is-a-non-issue.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitterhttps://twitter.com/KarisaMaxwell/status/1008736357144059905

Let’s not debate whether hiring more women is the right thing to do. (Which it is). Let’s consider whether this is the smart thing to do. According to Nielsen, 77 percent of women regularly watch football, 56 percent view baseball and 54 percent watch basketball. That’s fairly close to mens’ interests: football (89%), baseball (70%), basketball (68%). This is a significant audience share. In order to better engage and inform this audience, why the heck wouldn’t sports media organizations hire more women as sports journalists?

nielsen

That’s part of the reason that Sports Illustrated senior writer Charlotte Wilder tweeted out this comment about a current job opportunity.

Ed Werder, a former ESPN reporter, responded:

werder

Gasoline, meet fire.

Wilder, ESPN senior writer Mina Kimes, Werder and social media dived into whether it is acceptable to overtly recruit females over males. You can follow the debate on Twitter for yourself, although I’d first recommend this wildly uncomfortable, bizarre, hysterical narrative by Nisha Sharma on a date she observed at a Barnes & Noble.

Listen: Women have to fight harder to earn an interview, much less to get hired. And veteran, award-winning women who work sports beats continue to get propositioned by those whom they cover and demeaned by those whom they seek to serve sports information. Is it fair to favor one gender or race over another from time to time? Maybe not. But if I were an editor or publisher, I’d seek to develop a news room that is as diverse as the community we want to serve.

Think about this as well: Talent usually prevails, no matter the odds and the situations. If you’re a guy, continue to work hard and creatively in order to reach your ultimate goals –- as numerous women have had to do in this field for 100 years. If your talent and work ethic are superb, you’ll likely succeed no matter whether you start at a tiny community newspaper or by reporting sports news for a small-market radio or TV station – or even if you begin with a blog.

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About jgisondi

I am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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