Two weeks ago Amy K. Nelson, an award-winning multi-media journalist and a friend, wrote a thoughtful piece for The Hairpin.com on how women in the sports media are systematically at a disadvantage. It prompted some important dialogue on the internet and social media, as did a post by CBS Sports Radio host Amy Lawrence on the verbal and sexual harassment she's experienced in the male-dominated world of sports radio. Both pieces struck a chord with me and prompted this column to reach out to six highly accomplished and respected women in the sports media for an email roundtable on the issues they deal with daily as women in the sports media.
• Michelle Beadle, NBC Sports staffer and Access Hollywood correspondent.
• Andrea Kremer, NFL Network chief correspondent for Player Health and Safety and a correspondent for HBO's Real Sports.
• Amy K. Nelson, award-winning multimedia journalist.
• Jenny Vrentas, NFL writer, The MMQB.com and Sports Illustrated
• Lisa Wilson, executive sports editor, The Buffalo News.
The panel was asked a series of email questions with no requirements. They were free to pass on any questions. For those on Twitter, the women above are recommended and you can follow them by clicking on their names above. This is long, but I think very much worth your time if you want insight into today's sports media.
1. How much sexism exists today in the sports media?
Beadle: I don't particularly think that sexism in the sports media is any better or worse than in other industries. It does seem to be the go-to means of insult for some, but by now you have to laugh it off or blow them up. When perpetrated by other media members, I believe it comes from a place of jealousy or desperation. The most frustrating thing is when women are dissected for aesthetics while men get a pass. Members of both genders have been equally guilty of not performing at a top level, but the female seems to suffer a bigger public bashing.
Kremer: The definition of sexism is: "discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities." I believe that in the sports media, it's still "easiest" to be a white male. Sadly, I think there continues to be a high percentage of viewers, listeners and readers who want their sports news and information delivered solely from men. The double standard still exists. If a man makes a mistake, he misspoke. If a woman errs, she doesn't know what she's talking about. Thankfully, there are more women employed in the sports media than ever. I don't think they're viewed as such an anomaly anymore, but there are times it feels like women are token hires and not there based on knowledge and ability. And pity the poor woman saddled with the moniker "high maintenance." That can be a job killer. There is much greater tolerance for that among men than women. This is an area where stereotypes creep in and can be tough to overcome. And trust me -- I've seen just as many men fret about their hair and overall appearance as do women! When executives overemphasize women's looks I believe it encourages the talent to emphasize their personal branding and not their work and accomplishments.
Martin: Women in sports often are viewed as either ornaments (on TV) or as "the other" (in professional locker rooms). When you stand out in such a way, it's expected that some may view and treat you differently. Sadly, I can only think of a few women who currently have a huge platform to share their sports writing and opinions. ESPN's Jemele Hill, whom I consider a mentor and adviser of sorts, has managed to carve out a niche where her ideas and opinions on sports matter. How many women on TV can say that? Please understand that I'm not questioning anyone's credentials here. I'm just pointing out an obvious truth -- looks are at a premium when TV is involved. And that statement is almost 100 percent true when it comes to women. Trust me, I'm thrilled that so many women have been hired on major cable networks, but how many of them were first selected based on what's in their head versus what their face looks like?
Nelson: I think there are varying degrees of it, and, much like racism, it usually isn't overt. It's coded, and it's tough to judge, at times, whether or not you're imagining it or whether it's real. Then there are the Damon Bruces, and there is nothing coded about that. I much prefer my bigots to be transparent than closeted; at least you know what's in front of you.
Vrentas: There's no doubt that if you are a woman who works in sports media, you will encounter sexism during your career. A few months ago, I was at a dinner table with about a dozen female journalists, and we collectively lamented the experience of two women passed over for broadcast gigs. One that was told the station was looking for a blonde instead, and the second, that the station already employed a woman of her ethnicity.
I have always worked in print media, so, fortunately, I have not experienced some of the hiring barriers that exist in the broadcast world. I'm grateful for the doors opened to me first at The Star-Ledger and now at Sports Illustrated and The MMQB. At both places, I have had wonderful bosses and co-workers who have supported and encouraged me in my career.
But as a woman working in a male-dominated field, the reality is that there are differences. You often feel like you have to go farther to prove competency. When doors to you or female colleagues are closed, you wonder if gender played a role, and you do the same when doors are opened. I'd be lying if I said there weren't times when I believed I received an opportunity, at least in part, to fill some kind of female quota. That's fine, and truly, I cover the NFL for a living so I'm not in a position to complain much. But you do hope for a day when impactful female sports journalists are considered less of a novelty and more of a regularity, and when all career tracks, including to management and play-by-play posts, are wide open.
Wilson: Women have made strides in sports media, but sexism, unfortunately, does still exist. The first thing that came to mind when I read this question was Albany Times Union columnist Jennifer Gish. She wrote a column criticizing Bills fans, and the voice mails she received were just ridiculous. She was told she should stay in the kitchen and that women shouldn't be writing about sports anyway. This was two years ago, not 20. You would think the kitchen insults would have gone out with big hair, or at least with VHS.
2. You are all on Twitter. How often do you get tweets related to your appearance, gender or race (or all of the above) and what impact do they have?
Beadle: Wait, people say mean things on Twitter? Ha! I get references to what I look like daily -- the good, the bad and the ugly. I made the mistake of gaining weight last winter, and, boy, did the faceless warriors let me know. If anger is your motivation, then it certainly helps in the gym. But we're like anyone. Good days and bad. Twitter has been an accelerated lesson to grow that thick skin. And grow it fast.
Kremer: From what I've seen I'll get an occasional nasty tweet about my appearance but I get more questions and comments about my stories or reports. I do remember one game when I was on the sidelines for Sunday Night Football and I was wearing a cornflower blue leather jacket picked out by our NBC stylist, and Twitter was blowing up about my attire. That was a learning experience (and the jacket didn't make a return appearance!). By the way, Fred Gaudelli, the producer of Sunday Night Football, told me at the onset of my sideline career to never Google myself (or read tweets about myself), and that there was something about the sideline job that brought out the vitriol in viewers. He was right. No one in their right mind wants to read something negative about the way they look -- it's mean-spirited and tough to handle, especially when you have children who can find it on the Internet.
Martin: I'll take "All Of The Time" for $800, Alex. It always strikes me as funny/odd/annoying/sad when I see male sportswriters issue "correction" tweets and no one bats an eye. But when I (or another female sportswriter) make a mistake, a few chumps always feel compelled to deliver the "Ugh, women don't know anything about sports" salvo. I find that I'm now hypercritical of my own errors because I know some people out there are just waiting to be supplied with more ammo. Surprisingly -- or should I say, awesomely? -- no one has ever taken shots at me on Twitter based on race. Now, what I do often get are tweets/emails/Instagram mentions about my looks. I can't tell you how many times I've been told "You've got a face for TV! You're wasting it working at a newspaper" or "Wow! You're pretty AND smart." Don't get me wrong, it's better than hearing I look like some Orc from Middle-earth. But there's always this assumption that attractive women should want to be on TV because, well, that's where attractive women wind up. From the time I was eight, I wanted to be [Good Morning America host] Robin Roberts or [former longtime NBC New York news anchor] Sue Simmons. But as I got older, I fell in love with writing and decided I didn't want to be judged, first, on my looks.
Nelson: When I used to be on ESPN, very often. That I looked tired was a common refrain, or that I have a fat face, what I was wearing, etc. ... Sometimes it was about how hot I am and will I accept their marriage proposal? And then, of course, the more vile comments, which are always plus-plus. I've been called a c--- more times than I can count, had myriad death threats, and been told that the only reason I have my job is because I'm either a.) sleeping with all the athletes, or b.) sleeping with my (presumed) male bosses. I once had someone threaten to mace me outside my apartment building in New York City. ESPN security (which is rarely heralded but so invaluable to its employees and especially its talent) worked with me at the time, and hearing some of the stuff they had to protect against was awful. I'm just a white woman who hears it, but that's nothing compared to the black women in our business. From what I've been told and have seen anecdotally, the misogyny plus the racism they endure is awful. Easy from my privileged perch to say this, but I've got it easy.
Vrentas: For the most part, I appreciate Twitter interactions. Particularly when I was covering a beat (the Jets from 2010 to 2011 and the Giants in 2012), you feel as though you have a dedicated base of Twitter followers who rely on you for information and analysis about their team, and who chime in with feedback and ideas of their own that can be very helpful. But there are a handful of people who take it to an ugly place, and it's hard to not be affected by these. One time, I misunderstood an answer at a late-night press conference during draft weekend, and all of a sudden fans watching a live stream of the press conference online were saying how big of an idiot I was and how that's the problem with women covering the NFL. At the root of what bothers me is that no male beat writer would get that response for making an honest mistake, as we all do from time to time. Nor do they get told their nose looks like a beak or their hair resembles straw in a manger, or become subjects of message board debates on whether or not they are, in far cruder words, dateable. For the record, I inherited my nose from my dad, and I like it just fine.
Wilson: I'll pass on this one. I'm on Twitter but not as active as I should be. That's one of my resolutions for 2014, to Tweet more.
Debating role of women in sports media (cont.)
3. What, if any, personal experiences do you have when it comes to sexism -- either institutionalized or overt?
Beadle: I've definitely seen sexism. Felt it. Heard it. As my lovely friend Amy Nelson pointed out, we don't have a lot of badass chick representation in the corner offices making some of the bigger decisions. And whether a suit wants to admit it or not, some still adhere to the way in which they expect to digest their sports coverage: older, white and male. I was hired to do a show recently that began as a single female host, and quickly turned into a partnership, albeit an ill-fitting one, with a male. Why? I have no idea. I suppose the idea of a woman hosting a sports show alone wasn't bought by all. Go, Rachel Nichols!
Kremer: Back in the '90s I was told that I wouldn't get a true opportunity to host a certain show because the executives wouldn't put a woman in that role. I have also experienced an "only speak when spoken to" mentality around certain high powered, high profile men which was quite eye opening to me. The misogynistic attitudes still exist and never cease to amaze me.
Martin: Professionally, I've been afforded opportunities most young sportswriters would kill for. It blows my mind that as far as anyone in the office knows, I'm Newsday's first female football beat writer. Crazy, right? So, I've been blessed. Unfortunately, I have run into male sportswriters who like to denigrate their female colleagues. Those guys just happen to be either a) sad; b) insecure; c) misogynists or d) all of the above. And I've found that they are the exception, not the rule. Thankfully.
Nelson: Well, overt ways like being hit on, consistently being asked why I got into this business (because as a woman, it's such an alien thing to do), being party to conversations that are totally inappropriate, the list goes on. At my first job in this business a dude had a massive collection of porn magazines, with many of the lovely ladies pasted on the walls of his cubicle. He'd leave a new mag out every day for the night crew. When I was hired, I was the lone woman, and our boss made him take it all down once I got there. Some of the guys hated me for that, resented me and treated me horribly. I never said a thing about it -- it was just assumed I snitched. I consider myself a very liberal person in my personal life when it comes to my sense of humor and what I find offensive (not much), but sometimes in a work environment -- even as one as casual as sports -- it's not always cool.
Beadle navigates these two worlds and code-switches better than any woman I've ever seen in this biz. The institutionalized are things like seeing male colleagues who closely resemble our male bosses get the push and encouragement instead of us, being viewed as too aggressive, the lack of women as role models in positions of power, etc. I once was screamed at in front of an entire room of colleagues by someone who wasn't even my superior, all just to embarrass me because I had raised a question to one of our bosses about a decision he made. We had a tenuous relationship, but I can't properly convey without an excessive use of foul language how humiliating and infuriating that was.
Vrentas: We all have stories, so I'll share one. I was in a football locker room when I was in my early 20s, assigned to write a story on how a rash of injuries to the offensive line would affect the team's run game that week. After the initial scrum of reporters around the starting running back dispersed, I approached him to ask a few follow-ups. "Could the line-up changes affect the types or directions of run plays called?" I asked. He looked at me and said, "You're such a woman when you ask that." I froze, with no comeback. Another reporter overheard and chuckled, which only upset me further. I did the only thing I could think of: quickly asked another question or two, and shuffled away. But one thing you learn in this business, and this is universal, is that you have to stand up for yourself. So the next day I returned to the player's locker and told him I didn't appreciate what he had said. He immediately apologized and said he didn't mean it in a sexist way (though, of course, on some level he did). I'd like to think he respected me more for calling him on it, but I honestly don't know that for sure. Is this example representative of my experiences? Absolutely not. But is it an anomaly? No.
Being a female in a male-dominated business involves a certain level of self-trust, that if the people who pre-judge you really knew you and the way that you work, they would respect you. I try to remind myself of that often. And five years later, I still think my question about the run calls was a good one.
Wilson: When I answer the phone at work, people still ask to speak to the editor in charge, as if it couldn't possibly be a woman. There are times I'll inform the person on the other end they are speaking to the editor in charge, and that person is still incredulous. You're in the charge of the entire sports section?
4. Are sideline reporter positions a good opportunity for women, or do they reinforce that women are not getting other positions on a sports broadcast?
Beadle: For me, sideline reporting was a means to something more. To each their own, as some are perfectly content with that position. There was a time when it was the only way for women to venture out into sports media, and it serves as a great place to learn and make a lot of connections. I hope we continue to see women in various other roles such as Doris Burke and Sage Steele.
Kremer: I think that sideline reporter is a good opportunity for women but should not be the only or the first consideration for women when hiring a team to broadcast a game. I think that women can get pigeonholed on the sidelines and it seems that virtually every broadcast troika sports a woman in that role, Tony Siragusa, and at one time, Chris Myers, notwithstanding. Then when CBS finally used sideline reporters on a game last season -- the Super Bowl -- it went with former players and solid analysts, Solomon Wilcots and Steve Tasker. Yet when the lights went out (literally), a full-time reporter, like Tracy Wolfson who is their lead face on the college sidelines, would've been better served in that role. As I've written in this space earlier this season, the amount of air time and contributions that a woman makes in this role is controlled by male producers or executives and she may be asked to make more "featurey" contributions rather than speak about the X's and O's of the game (in addition to the injury updates fed by the teams).
Martin: Let me start off by saying in our industry, any job is a good job. I've never worked in TV, so I can't speak with absolute authority. But I imagine a sideline gig could lead to exposure and open doors to other broadcasting opportunities. Here's what I find interesting, though: The young girls I run into who are interested in pursuing sports careers all want to be on-air talent. They only aspire to be anchors or work the sidelines. I don't think I've ever met a young lady who wanted to be behind-the-scenes like a producer or an editor. Why is that?
Nelson: I can't tell you how many young women who have reached out to me for advice and say "sideline reporter" when I ask them about their goals. It's not that it can't be a job that is of value and worked authoritatively (look at Andrea Kremer, Ken Rosenthal, etc.), but it's so often populated with young (hot) women who aren't actual journalists or reporters that it's become a cliché. It's our own female sports ghetto -- akin to first base coaches in baseball or defensive back coaches in football as the unofficially designated minority position. Simply, it's where we most often are slotted. And it's constantly reinforced by the power structure that jobs like anchor and sideline reporter are the pinnacle (there are plenty of women who do both respective jobs with authority and who are great), and that's unfortunate. There should be a path to more power. I'll always be grateful to Jim Rome (and I know I'm not alone on this) because he was someone (and still is) who would have women on his show and give them a platform and a voice and actually ask and value their opinions. (And it wasn't just women; he asked people in this business who weren't always the automatic calls.) All Rome cared is if you brought it; he wanted different and smart perspectives. I wish there were more hosts and executives out there who sought the same.
Vrentas: Anyone who watched NBC's "Sunday Night Football" when Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsed, and saw how fleetly and gracefully Michele Tafoya handled the very serious developing news understands the great influence sideline reporters can have in sports broadcasts. The difficulty and importance of those positions is often underestimated, and they are prominent roles that both women and men should aspire to fill. The problem is, for women looking for on-air positions on game day broadcast teams, sideline reporting is pretty much the only endpoint (not to ignore the handful of women who are the hopeful exceptions). That reality does both a disservice to women who could thrive in play-by-play or color commentary roles, and also the women who excel in sideline reporting roles but are viewed by some as merely filling the token female spot on broadcast teams.
Wilson: I think it can be an opportunity because some sideline reporters have moved on to the studio. There is value in sideline reporting. It isn't the fluff assignment it might be perceived to be. It was only a matter of time before Suzy Kolber moved on. Then again, there isn't a TV reporter I enjoy more than Michele Tafoya. She's long overdue to be in the studio.
5. How candid can you be publicly about gender issues in the business?
Beadle: This business of how candid can one be is such a game. And one that I'm not great at playing. Egos get bruised. My career could potentially suffer. But I like the idea that we continue to keep this line of dialogue open. There's a way to fight the good fight and avoid the "playing the victim" card that turns everyone off. I will continue to support my female colleagues in any way I can. When I was hosting The Crossover, I wanted to make a place where we could showcase all these intelligent, hard-working women. Whatever I do next, I hope to continue that. It's ridiculous that as sports fans, we still worry about the gender of the person delivering our information. Doing the work and having a passion about the gig is what matters, not whether or not I pee sitting down.
Kremer: Not especially. The best way to improve opportunities for women is through great work, not complaining, in my opinion.
Martin: As a football beat writer, I don't really have a platform to express my views on gender. The gig doesn't leave much time for writing freelance pieces about social/gender issues, either, but I doubt it would be an issue if I chose to do so.
Nelson: Too late for me! Prior to writing the piece for The Hairpin, though, I was terrified. When you have no power, or little of it, and you want to be hired in this business, you are not going out on that limb. It's very, very difficult.
Vrentas: I find this to be a somewhat difficult balance to strike. On the one hand, you want to acknowledge the unique challenges and hurdles we as women face in a male-dominated business, in the hopes of spurring change or supporting fellow women. On the other hand, you want to be known, above all else, for the work that you do; I want to be recognized as a football writer, not a female football writer. You want equality, so is it contradictory to single yourself out in the process? Perhaps some of my hesitation, too, comes from being relatively young in the business and thankful for the opportunities I have received thus far. Usually, my solution is to put my head down and keep working and not contribute a lot to the conversation. But as a journalist, I see the value of open and insightful dialogue, and a forum for that dialogue.
Wilson: I'm always candid. This subject is no different. When people ask me how it feels to be the only woman of color leading a sports section at a major metropolitan newspaper, I tell them what an honor it is, but I'm also quick to point out that I shouldn't be the only one.
6. Why do we not see women in their 50s, 60s and 70s in sports television as we do men of that age?
Beadle: Unfortunately, television, and more important, high definition television, has made the game tougher. The double standard has been there forever and not just in sports. Lots of local newscasts pair an older guy with a younger partner. The idea that women in sports are just "eye candy" is still fundamentally at play, maybe even subconsciously for some. Since we're just there for a little bonus viewing, better keep 'em young and perky. Then again, Hollywood has the monopoly on the "men get sexier, women need to go away."
Kremer: Very simply, women haven't been in the sports business as long as men. I don't think it's a revelation that women's looks are judged more harshly as they age as opposed to men. In addition, there are men on television who are not that telegenic yet a comparable looking women would never be put in front of the camera in the first place. Of course, I prefer to call us experienced, not old! But look at the grand dames of sports these days: Pam Oliver, Suzy Kolber, Hannah Storm, Michele Tafoya, Shelley Smith and of course, the doyenne, Lesley Visser. All closer to (sssshhh) 50 than 40 and at the top of their games. And you know what we all have in common, which (speaking for myself) means a ton: longevity, consistency and respect.
Martin: Society is obsessed with women's looks, so it's no surprise that women in TV are heavily scrutinized. But it amazes me that some male broadcasters can be as chubby, bald or as obnoxiously dressed as they want to be, but TV producers fixate on every little curl on a woman's head or the tiniest wardrobe detail. I mean, no one cares what Chris Berman, John Clayton or Mike Lupica look like (No offense, guys.) If we as a society put so much emphasis on the appearance of young women, it shouldn't come as a surprise that society isn't interested in seeing skin that's not so supple, hair that's not so thick or shiny, or waistlines that aren't so small anymore.
Nelson: Ask Hollywood the same question. Age doesn't play for us.
Vrentas: I hope that in time, as women in on-air roles age in the business, their increased experience will be viewed as an asset more so than their supposed decreased sex appeal as a deterrent; just as is the case for men. An example in the news media is the PBS NewsHour, presented by the excellent Gwen Ifill (age 58) and Judy Woodruff (age 67). But sports media straddles a line between journalism and entertainment, and women, with rare exception, seem to face a looming age barrier that does not apply to men.
Wilson: My theory is that women are still judged on their appearances more than men. How often do you hear that men of that age look "distinguished?" Not so much when it comes to women. There's still a double standard.
7. Why have we not seen a woman calling play-by-play full-time in the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL?
Beadle: Play-by-play is a tough one. [ESPN's] Beth Mowins and Doris Burke are the two that jump right out. If sports media is a boys club, then play-by-play is some secret Skulls society. I don't know why. The ability to watch and call an event is not a talent solely thrown on males. One didn't have to play the game, as we're reminded we never did. Like everything, time and reps will get people used to it.
Kremer: Most important, I feel that a woman should be calling play-by-play if she's earned it, if she's paid her dues and worked her way up just like her male counterparts have to do. So I wonder what's happening at the lowest levels of sports, even starting in high schools. Are women not trying or not being given opportunities? A woman like [ESPN's] Pam Ward, who has gained the experience, should absolutely be given a shot. Why hasn't she gotten a chance in the Big Four? When you ask the hiring executives, please let us know their answer.
Martin: Declined to answer.
Nelson: Declined to answer.
Vrentas: This is an important barrier that I'm eager to see broken. Certainly being a play-by-play announcer, particularly for one of the four major professional sports, is one of the most challenging jobs in sports media, and requires a special skill set that not everybody has. But it's ridiculous to think that only men have this ability. I read a smart ESPN.com article from 2011 on this topic, in which the author, LZ Granderson, wrote that "mechanisms need to be put in place to help facilitate a more inclusive environment" in the same way that Title IX gives girls fair access to sports programs, or the Rooney Rule ensures minorities are considered for NFL head coaching jobs. A friend recently noted to me that he's used to the sound of a male voice calling games because it's always been that way for the 20-something years he's watched football. But that doesn't mean the status quo can't change.
Wilson: There's the perception that you can't be an effective play-by-play announcer if you didn't play the game. Women have not played in the major sports leagues. But that doesn't mean women don't know the game. You don't have to run a post pattern to recognize a post pattern. There are male play-by-play announcers who never played and nobody questions their credentials. I'm sure there's also the "if ain't broke don't fix it" mentality. If nobody makes it an issue -- and I hope this discussion will get the people in charge thinking -- then nothing will ever change.
8. Who is a woman in sports either in a front-facing or behind the scenes capacity who is doing great work that the public should know more about?
Beadle: Declined to answer.
Kremer: Thank you for asking this question because those in front of the camera get the kudos (and the criticism) but television is truly a team effort. Here are several women in different capacities I've had the pleasure of working with over the past few years who are terrific and unsung in no particular order: Stephanie Druley, who started out as a production assistant at ESPN, worked her way up to Senior Coordinating Producer for football programming, launched the Longhorn Network and is now Vice President of Production for College Networks and is overseeing the start up of the SEC Network in the spring. Deena Sheldon, a sideline veteran, who masterfully runs the far side cart camera for Sunday Night Football and knows more about inclement weather conditions than Jim Cantore. Audrey Mansfield and Lisette Bugeja, two spectacular makeup artists are the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning of their craft. And Hilary Guy, a fabulously talented producer for our Health and Safety Unit, came to the NFL Network after six years at the Today Show and is the consummate all purpose weapon. By the way, not to go off on a tangent, but much of the discussion in this column is about on-air women but there are a myriad of production opportunities for women as well: producing, directing, editing. I'd love to have a woman aspire to be a Stephanie Druley, running a network, more so than only being on air. That could be our next generation of female sports executives!
Martin: Kristie Ackert, a Mets beat writer for the New York Daily News. Out of all the newspapers in the New York-New Jersey area, I can only name two female beat writers covering major professional teams -- Kristie and me. That, to me, is insane. The press boxes, clubhouses and locker rooms in the biggest media market are consistently dominated by men. Being the only woman in the room comes with the territory, and Kristie is feistier and more tenacious than a lot of people I know in the biz. She's not only a great person, but she does a great job. And she should be commended and respected for doing so well at a major New York tabloid.
Nelson: Damon Bruce.
Vrentas: Our Sports Illustrated colleague, Maggie Gray, is fantastic in hosting the SINow daily web show. She books many of her own guests and asks smart, thoughtful questions, creating a different kind of dialogue than the screaming and yelling we often see in sports talk shows. She's a total professional and can hold her own with any personality in any sport.
Wilson: Amy Moritz of The Buffalo News. She's a veteran reporter who has primarily covered college sports until last month, when she moved into the role of hockey writer in hockey-mad Buffalo. She is our primary college hockey writer and a backup on the Sabres beat. She's also a triathlete and past president of the Association for Women in Sports Media. You can follow her on Twitter here.
9. Why is the subject of women not being in positions of hiring and power in the sports media rarely talked about publicly?
Beadle: Declined to answer.
Kremer: It's something I've been talking about for quite some time. The old-boy network really does exist and people hire "their own," especially those they're comfortable around. This played out in the NFL with the dearth of minority candidates in coaching vacancies, which led to the Rooney Rule requiring every team to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching or general manager openings. "Minorities" refers to men of color -- why race but not gender? And I don't think this is something unique to sports -- not enough women sit on the most powerful boards of directors in top companies across America, especially in the tech realm. As I mentioned before, I'd like to see more women on the executive career path. It's not as though female executives would only hire other women. But I bet -- or, at least, I hope -- they would hire the right, qualified women, not like some male executives who seem to be hiring the women they couldn't get a date with in high school! By the way, former ESPN president George Bodenheimer started in the mailroom. Why couldn't the future head of ESPN start her career as a production assistant?
Martin: Simple. If most of the decision-makers are men, who's going to bring this up?
Nelson: See my answer to question No. 5.
Vrentas: There's a bit of a Catch-22 that's a little awkward to talk about: We want people in hiring positions to give women opportunities, but it also stings your pride to wonder if you were given an opportunity because you are a woman. I think the reality is we need more people in hiring positions, whether they are male or female, to recognize the importance of doing journalism from a variety of perspectives, across gender, race, age, etc., and to act on it.
Wilson: What was I saying about "if it ain't broke don't fix it?" See my answer to No. 7.
10. Why are more women not hosting sports-talk radio shows?
Beadle: Women in sports radio is a tough one. When I was at ESPN, Linda Cohn was my favorite person to do my podcast with. I always thought, "Here is this woman who is one of the best and first [in the field] who is really only getting fill-in roles on the radio side. Why?" You couldn't argue her passion, her fandom or her knowledge. Now, after 20 years, she's finally doing her thing with her podcast. Some women only want the television side. It's exposure and if you opened doors on a looks-based skillset, I'd imagine radio isn't all that sexy an option. For me, it's the best medium out there. More freedom. More honesty. I love that I'm seeing more out there. [NBA TV's] Kristen Ledlow down in Atlanta. [New York City-based host] Anita Marks with her show. And Amy Lawrence has been doing her thing for quite some time as well.
Kremer: Again, please ask your hiring executives. Thank goodness the Fabulous Sports Babe is still going strong in Tampa! Sports radio feels like the last bastion of women relegated to "sidekicks" or merely guests. I believe SiriusXM NFL radio doesn't have a single female contributor. Really? In 2013? There are no women in the United States capable and knowledgeable enough about football to co-host a show? On one of the ESPN Radio shows, I heard a female staffer talking about how she had met her athletic hero and gotten a picture taken with him. I'd rather have heard her break down his game and why she was such a fan.
Martin: Oftentimes women are the moderators on TV and radio, or they're providing down-the-middle opinions on particular topics. We're not expected to have an in-your-face or a polarizing personality like Stephen A. Smith or Skip Bayless, and thus we're not encouraged to have strong opinions in a professional setting. Some argue that because a majority of female sportswriters didn't grow up playing football/hockey/baseball/etc., we can't possibly understand the game or its players. I'd love to know how many of my male colleagues played college sports. The answer, I'm sure, is not many. So why are they the only ones who are treated as authorities and commended for being talking heads? When hiring practices such as these are in place, it's no surprise that we end up seeing stories on the internet about how "hot" or "ugly" so-and-so female sportswriter is, or what type of hairstyle she's rocking that day.
Nelson: This medium, more than any other, has traditionally been the white man's domain, the no-ladies-allowed club (unless you are vapid and there as a prop). I'm generalizing, of course, but why haven't we had a female host rise to the level of a Mike Francesa, or even a Jim Rome? Maybe it comes down to that we are not one of them. Male sports are what dominate, and since we are outside of that club, we don't get the automatic pass and therefore aren't viewed as often for possible hires in the traditionally-held male roles of radio host, sports columnist, play-by-play, etc.
Vrentas: I think this relates to only 10 percent of sports columnists being women. Roles relying on opinion and analysis are among the slowest to be opened up to women. That's unfortunate, because bringing in different perspectives only makes for better discussion.
Wilson: I'm speaking mostly from the print side, so my instinct is to pass here.
11. Why, in your opinion, have so many front-facing women left ESPN over the last two years?
Beadle: Declined to answer.
Kremer: Different opportunities and challenges. I know that's why I did. But also consider how many opportunities ESPN has given women, starting with Gayle Gardner and Karie Ross in the studio in the 1980s to hiring yours truly as the network's first female correspondent to letting women gain experience today on their myriad networks and platforms.
Martin: Declined to answer.
Nelson: I can only speak for myself, but with so many talented people there and ahead of me on the depth chart, I needed a change. I had been there for seven years, got there early in my career and ESPN allowed me a space to build my career and my brand. But with that came a stalling of sorts, and I really wanted to do something new and different and with more freedom. It is strange, though, how so many have left in the last few years. There aren't many who have stayed and become institutions like some of the high-profile male talent. Maybe we see there are only certain tracks and we leap because it affords us more power and freedom? Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle went to cable network television, where they were offered their own shows. That's more power and freedom (and more money, that doesn't hurt). Maybe that's part of the equation.
Vrentas: I've never worked for ESPN, nor have I had experience in a regular broadcast role, so I can't really offer an informed opinion. I'll leave that question to those who have made the move. But I do like seeing talented women in sports valued in the media marketplace and being pursued for an increasing scope and breadth of roles.
Wilson: I think women have more options these days (NFL Network, etc.) and they are taking advantage of them.
12. Is there anything you want to add?
Beadle: I'm proud of steps made [by women] before my career, during and certainly when I'm done. So many great women have walked into locker rooms where they weren't wanted, and come out and delivered the goods. Like any business in the world there are good and there are bad. We all get lumped in together no matter what, and we reap the benefits as a group as well as take shots as a group. I'm proud of the women I know and have had a chance to talk with in this business. And let's keep crushing.
Kremer: I realize we are talking specifically about women in sports media in this space but what about opportunities for women in executive/management positions for teams? Are there no women qualified for football/basketball/baseball/hockey operations. Just executive assistants? I have always maintained that women can view sports through a different prism. Isn't that a good thing? I realize that some of your male readers may think, "What next, she wants them in coaching or scouting?" I'd say funny you mention that.
Martin: Declined to answer.
Nelson: In spite of some of the seriousness that I project here, I think all of this needs to be couched with an understanding that most of my close friends in life are men (I like men, really, I do!) and I'm more comfortable around them generally than women. But after years of being witness to the inequities, I wanted to be a voice and have some of our voices heard. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the male allies I've had throughout my career, and we need more. More who will be proactive in seeking women whom they can promote and cultivate and groom for the highest-paying and most powerful jobs in the industry.
Vrentas: I've visited many different sports journalism classrooms over the past few years, from the Write on Sports summer camp for middle schoolers in New Jersey to Professor Sandy Padwe's sports journalism class at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and have seen firsthand the number of smart, ambitious and talented young women interested in sports media careers. So I know the interest is there; we just have to make sure the access to opportunities is, too.
Wilson: Thank you for asking me to be part of this important discussion. Change can never happen without a conversation.
The Noise Report
SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the past week.
I asked NFL Today producer Drew Kaliski about potential conflicts that could arise between Dan Marino's role as an independent analyst on the NFL Today and his new role as part of an internal group chosen by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to assess the Miami organization in the wake of the Jonathan Martin issue. "I have had a lot of conversations with Dan and I need him to be honest with our viewers and honest with me, and to let us know what is happening as best as he can with the situation and also what he is finding out on this committee," Kaliski said "He's one of my analysts and he has to be able to give us his opinion and takes on the situation. I would hope that it (the Dolphins situation) will be better now that he is on the committee and he can spread the word about harassment in the locker room, the workplace and bullying. This is a country and worldwide issue, and that hopefully being on this committee, he can learn some stuff and get that out on The NFL Today to inform viewers."
1a. CBS NFL broadcaster Dan Dierdorf announced he would retire at the end of this NFL season. I spoke with Dierdorf last week for SI.com on his decision.
1b. The NFL Network rounded up some famous sports people -- Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Martina Navratilova, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Sampras and Bill Walton among others -- to talk about rivalries as a lead-up to Sunday's Manning-Brady showdown. Great work by producer Anthony Smith.
1c. ESPN NFL analyst Ray Lewis on former teammate Joe Flacco: "There's no real balance that [the] Baltimore Ravens have right now and they want to make Joe Flacco -- they gave him $100 million. I understand that -- they want to make Joe Flacco a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. He's not that type of guy. He's a system type of guy that if you have the balance -- that you have running the ball, doing the things you need to do -- then Joe Flacco excels."
1d. The Week 11 Sunday Night Football game between the Broncos and Chiefs averaged 26.947 million viewers, the best primetime viewership for a November game in 17 years and the most-watched SNF game this season (including the Thursday night opener). It was also the most-watched primetime show of the fall television season.
2. Thoughtful work by ESPN College GameDay producer Celia Kelly (in her first year on GameDay) and reporter Gene Wojciechowski with this feature on Baylor coach Art Briles, who lost both his parents and aunt in a car accident on Oct. 16, 1976.
3. Last week I wrote a piece for The MMQB.com on the voice-artists who do the promos and bumpers for shows such as the NFL Today and Fox NFL Sunday.
4. This week's sports pieces of note:
• Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reports on how the NFL's plan for its first openly gay player fell apart.
• A deeply-reported piece by SI's Tim Layden on the NFL playing games after the JFK assassination.
• A writing teacher and Gawker staff writer (Adam Weinstein) on the culture of football at Florida State University.
• ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte weighed in on ethics and attribution at ESPN.
• CBS Sports college football columnist Bruce Feldman profiled Gallaudet University defensive lineman and NFL prospect Adham Talaat. Gallaudet is the only university in the world that serves the deaf and hard of hearing.
• Washington Post writer Rick Maese profiled a former MLS player's battle with thymic cancer.
• SI's Jon Wertheim offers an in-depth look at Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.
• Seven streakers at sporting events share their stories.
Non-sports pieces of note:
• Highly recommend this BBC World Service audio documentary, bringing together five people who were intimately connected to the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.
• Actor Michael Cera, writing for the New Yorker, on text messaging a stranger.
• Via Kottke.com: A short clip of a 17-year-old Christopher Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) freestyle rapping on a street corner in Brooklyn in 1989.
• Newsday republished this Jimmy Breslin column from Nov. 1963. The subject of the piece is the man who dug John F. Kennedy's grave at Arlington National cemetery. Many consider it the best newspaper column of all-time.
• Sensational reporting by The New York Times on domestic abuse inquiries and law enforcement. Long piece, but important work.
5. Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand reported a fascinating development for this year's men's basketball national semifinal games: Turner Sports and CBS will produce three different broadcasts for the each of the two national semifinals games with its own set of announcers. The traditional national broadcast will run on TBS, while TNT and truTV will carry games with is own camera angles and announcers customized to each specific team.
5a. The weekly Outside The Lines-has-been-buried-by-ESPN management update: Last Sunday's OTL aired at 8 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and drew 319,000 viewers, up from 219,000 viewers when the show aired at 7 a.m. last week.
5b. The Paul Finebaum show will begin airing on the ESPN Xtra channel on Sirius XM Radio starting Monday. Finebaum's program airs weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. ET.
5c. The weekly Outside The Lines-has-been-buried-by-ESPN management update, Part II: With the Finebaum show now airing on the ESPN Xtra channel, the daily afternoon Outside The Lines program will no longer be simulcast on that channel when it airs on ESPN2. "We are working with Sirius XM to find a new time slot for OTL," said an ESPN spokesperson.
5d. Nate Silver's ESPN project is starting to take shape. Last week more key staffing was announced for his site.
5e. NFL Network host Rich Eisen interviewed Twitter CEO Dick Costello for his podcast.
5f. Landon Donovan will serve as a guest studio analyst for Fox Sports 1's UEFA Champions League coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.
5g. Nice work by OTL producer Justine Gubar and ESPN television personality Pablo Torre with this piece on the turbulent life and death of boxer Hector Camacho.
5h. NFL Network's A Football Life profiles former Saints safety Steve Gleason on Tuesday at 9:00 PM ET.
5i. Those who read this space know I have issues with ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd, a talented radio performer who too often delves into socioeconomic overgeneralizations and has had his fanny kissed by ESPN Radio management and ESPN PR at the rate Kevin Love jacks up threes. But upon watching his ESPN2 show on Sunday, I quite enjoyed this "Cage Confessional" with Trey Wingo and Mark Schlereth.
5j. Bob Costas was announced as both the host for NBC's primetime and late night coverage of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the second time that Costas will host both the primetime and late night shows (2000 Sydney Olympics). The AP's Rachel Cohen spoke with Costas about the assignment.
5k. Earlier this month I wrote about SportsCenter using celebrities and non-traditional choices as anchors and how viewers should look for such one-time assignments to continue given the ratings boost. Last Tuesday six-time NASCAR sprint champion Jimmie Johnson become the first athlete ever to guest host the show. The result? The Tuesday 6 p.m. ET show drew 931,021 viewers, up 22 percent from the average (760,448) so far this fall for the time slot.