I love be­ing a sports jour­nal­ist but where are the women?

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - Olivia Cald­well

At 14-years-old I knew I wanted to be a sports jour­nal­ist. With­out a doubt. I was a tom boy who played rugby, hockey, ten­nis, cricket and all that was go­ing in the heart of cen­tral South­land. There was no plan B, I was go­ing to be a sports re­porter.

I’m now dou­ble that age and have fi­nally made it in to the sports depart­ment, just six months ago for Stuff. When I got this job I was over the moon and still am. Who wouldn’t want to write about their favourite thing day in and day out?

It’s funny though, when­ever I tell peo­ple what I do for a liv­ing they of­ten ask if I have any fe­male col­leagues. I don’t. At least not in the sport depart­ment - not even na­tion­ally.

I’m cer­tainly not com­plain­ing about the ev­ery day as­pect of that. It makes for a fun at­mos­phere and I don’t have to think twice about wear­ing Sh­neens (sneak­ers and jeans) to work as no­body cares.

But in re­al­is­ing I am in fact the only fe­male sports jour­nal­ist for the Fair­fax sports con­tin­gent across the coun­try, apart from be­ing proud, it is a tad alarm­ing. It wor­ries me that New Zealand me­dia may not be do­ing women’s sport jus­tice. And it puz­zles me why we don’t have more fe­males re­port­ing on what I would like to think is a gen­der neu­tral part of Kiwi life.

New Zealand does of course have a few well-known fe­male faces in sports broad­cast­ing. We have TVNZ’s Toni Street and Jenny May Cof­fin. SkyTV’s tal­ent in­cludes Hayley Holt, rugby’s Melodie Robin­son and Laura McGoldrick rolls in ev­ery cricket sea­son cov­er­ing the Black Caps. For­merly of Ra­diosport and now SkyTV, Rikki Swan­nell is one of the most knowl­edge­able sports jour­nal­ists in the coun­try.

How­ever, if we can list these women re­porters in print, tele­vi­sion and ra­dio from the last five to 10 years that easy, there is most def­i­nitely a ‘‘lady drought’’ in sports jour­nal­ism.

The op­ti­mist in me would like to think us Kiwi women have as much zest for sport as men. Af­ter all we are just as ex­posed to sport as it is so in­grained into the so­cial fab­ric of Kiwi so­ci­ety - par­tic­u­larly our me­dia. I don’t know many other coun­tries with the ex­cep­tion of the US that ded­i­cates an even share of the news to sport. The ques­tion comes to beg how­ever, how much of that sport news is ded­i­cated to women’s sport?

Could it be the lack of fe­male in­ter­est in be­com­ing sports re­porters is ac­tu­ally our own do­ing? Do the me­dia (me, my em­ploy­ers and com­peti­tors) cover well enough the sports our ‘‘Kiwi girls’’ want to hear and read about? Fe­male in­stinct says def­i­nitely not. Re­search shows that in over 30 years women have fea­tured in the sport sec­tion at a rate of only 10 per cent, with very lit­tle shift in that time.

How­ever, be­fore we go and blame the me­dia for the lack of fe­male sport in our pages, I have since seen with my own eyes some very solid rea­sons for this. Num­ber one is read­er­ship. When we print an All Blacks story, pa­pers are bought and peo­ple are click­ing on­line. In re­verse, even when the Black Ferns won the Women’s Rugby World Cup last month read­er­ship didn’t ex­actly break any soft­ware.

Per­haps an­other rea­son men’s sport is cov­ered more thor­oughly in the me­dia is that male sport is of­ten the more ex­cit­ing spec­ta­cle to watch.

Yes I have said it. I as much as any­one else want fe­male sport to get its time in the sun, but if I had to choose be­tween a Fed­erer vs Cilic fi­nal and a Wil­liams vs Mugu­ruza Wim­ble­don fi­nal I would watch the Swiss king take an­other ti­tle any day of the week.

In­ter­na­tional re­search shows I am not alone on this and that hav­ing more fe­males in sports me­dia does not nec­es­sar­ily mean more or bet­ter cov­er­age to women’s sport - be­cause fe­male jour­nal­ists too want to cover those pin­na­cle events and land some ku­dos with our male col­leagues and most im­por­tantly our read­ers.

Al­though our sports me­dia is pre­dom­i­nantly male and there is no easy fix for bet­ter cov­er­age of women’s sport, it is some­thing that can change over time.

Read­er­ship and re­sources means women may never have a 50/50 share in the sport­ing world but it is time me­dia out­lets take a new ap­proach to women’s sport and shift the scale just a lit­tle in the di­rec­tion of our sport­ing women.


Male sports stars get the lion’s share of cov­er­age in part be­cause the likes of Roger Fed­erer un­doubt­edly pro­vide a great spec­ta­cle.

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