This morning I read an article recapping Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism’s “Beyond The Box Score” series with Pam Oliver, USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, Rachel Nichols of CNN and Turner Sports, and ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth. They made up a panel titled, “The Female Voice in Sports Media.” I highly encourage you to read this, because all of these women have made their way in sports in different, yet all highly successful ways, and their discussion made me reevaluate how I handle my career.
You see, for me, being a sports reporter is a dream come true. I have honestly known that I have wanted to work in journalism since I saw April O’Neal on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But, it is also a profession that fills me with anxiety. One of the points the ladies on the panel discussed is that sideline reporters are journalists and not celebrities. My favorite part of my reporting job at LSU is seeing the young men and women grow in their interviews throughout the four years that they are here on campus. I thoroughly enjoy telling their stories, getting involved with the team and really getting to know the athletes and the coaches. With my passion for my career also comes increased scrutiny; always thinking about what others are thinking of me and also putting an insane amount of pressure on myself to live up to the standards that are now set for women sideline reporters.
I think I would look awkward as a blonde, and I can barely brush the hair I have so adding extensions is out. I am still learning how to apply makeup at the age of 29, and I have never been in a beauty pageant. I have never been on a Top 10 hottest anything (unless the list was literally for sweating), and I am not and do not think I will ever be comfortable wearing barely there clothes and taking selfies. That is just not who I am, but sometimes I get the feeling that is the person I should be if I ever want to move up in this industry.
At almost 30 years old, sometimes that is still a hard pill to swallow, but I have surrounded myself with people who are always there to encourage me and my reporting dreams. Without my family, friends and the people I work with at LSU, there is no way that I would be as successful in any career much less this one. I could list them all, but I can hear the Oscars music in my head saying wrap it up. This blog will be around for a while so I am sure they will all get their shoutouts at some point.
When I was first starting off my journalism career, I was working for FOX Sports in The Woodlands, Texas building and updating websites from 6pm at night until 3am in the morning. Obviously this was not the glamours on-camera job that I thought I would be doing once I graduated college, but I had a boss, Celeste Gehring, who made me relate each task I was doing to my ultimate goal of sideline reporting. I thought there was no way this job related to my dream of reporting, but somehow like she always does, Celeste linked the two for me, and I found two instant role models – Celeste and Pam Oliver.
I love Pam Oliver. I think she is an inspiring role model for women who want to pursue a career in sports journalism. She is good at her job, works hard and is honest. I don’t know her personally, but this is the vibe I get from her as I have followed her career.
Celeste gave me the assignment to watch any football game, and when it came time for the sideline reporter to do the halftime and postgame interview, to pause the game and ask my questions and then see if they lined up with the reporter. It was 2009 and I watched the Cowboys vs the Eagles game. Dallas earned their first play-off win in 13 years, and Oliver was there to get quarterback Tony Romo’s reactions. All I remember is Romo saying something to the tune of, “It always feels great when you win a playoff game,” and I thought, wait, this is first career post-season win. Well, my girl Pam Oliver was there to say what I was thinking, and I thought, this woman is about the facts and just corrected Tony Romo. You go, girl!
I would assume many young women starting their careers off with a goal of sideline reporting do not know of Christine Brennan. I read Brennan’s book when I was in college as an intern at FOX Sports Houston and was inspired to be a respected and hard working sports journalist like her. Rachel Nichols called out Floyd Mayweather before the biggest fight of the century. She asked him the questions that needed to be asked that most reporters, male or female, would not do. I thought that was epic. These women were and are doing what I want to do, and they aren’t worried about snapping an Instagram picture along the way.
Every day I see women much younger than me working the sidelines and living the dream that I once had to do the same thing. I love my job, but sometimes it is hard to think of my dream of being on ESPN and realizing that is not my dream anymore, and that’s perfectly OK. At first (and I will honestly admit that I sometimes still get this feeling) I had a feeling of jealousy that they were there and I was not. That is what I had always envisioned that I had to be, but I have made a career that I love surrounded by people that I love, and to me, that is pretty successful. And now, I look up those women! I love watching reporters like Maria Taylor, Laura Rutledge and Kaylee Hartung on television and learning from them.
There are tons of women to look up to in sports that are journalists, but you also can’t get in the way of yourself. Remember, just like Stuart Smalley said, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”
Geaux get em’, ladies!