Women part of sports journalism evolution

ESPN

espnW contributor Jane McManus speaks with TCU sports journalism students.

The Texas Christian University campus was familiar. It was like many college campuses; well-manicured with modern facilities and a sea of the school color, in this case purple. But the sports journalism class, taught by Melita Garza, I was asked to sit in on? Now this seemed a little different.

About 75 percent of the students were women.

The Schieffer School of Journalism invited a group of women from ESPN -- enterprise editor Jena Janovy, columnist Jemele Hill, business-sider Joslyn Dalton, multimedia producer Lori Higginbotham and digital anchor Michele Steele -- to address the students. That was in part because TCU’s administrators saw the evolving student body needed role models who could speak directly to issues they might be faced with in the future.

If these women choose to go into sports journalism, most of their career will not be impacted by gender. Stories will be edited, spelling errors fixed, without a thought to whether they wore pink or blue as a baby. But there could be other moments -- the first time they walk into a room of fellow writers and athletes and realize they are the only woman -- where it may become an issue.

What was heartening for me after 15 years in the business? I realized the women in this class could soon be by my side, filling seats in the press box, making it less of a male-dominated profession. They will pay their dues, working in television as production assistants and learning the newspaper business by writing roundups of local games. These women will be work their way up the ranks in numbers.

I hope they stay in the business. Their questions -- and I’m including the men in the program -- were sharp. And those men won’t be surprised to have women as colleagues once they graduate.

I thought a larger wave of women would come to sports journalism sooner, but the idea it’s happening now is still gratifying. Even though I know they’re coming after my job, which is exactly how it should be.