Women in sports journalism shouldn't have to deal with discrimination

While ASU prepares its journalism students for the dangers of the job, more can always be done

Although not as often accompanied by high profile threats that often come with investigative journalism, or even the intense pressures of war time journalism, sports journalism is not without its own risks, particularly for women journalists. 

A few months ago, Jourdan Rodrigue, Carolina Panthers beat reporter for the Charlotte Observer and an alumna from ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, was the subject of a national news conversation after quarterback Cam Newton made derogatory comments on her qualifications as a journalist because she was a woman. 

And just over a year before that, Erin Andrews' much publicized stalking case brought into light the dangers women can potentially face in the journalism field. 

Instances like these make it clear that safety and respect for female journalists is still a work in progress. 

With one of the largest sports journalism programs in the country, the Cronkite school prepares its students for the dangers of the job and equips students with the tools necessary to talk about uncomfortable situations, but there's room for improvement. 

The Cronkite school has an elite faculty and staff and is one of the few schools with a specific sports journalism major.

"It's the best I've seen, but I'm not just saying that because I work there," said Sada Reed, Cronkite sports reporting professor and veteran sports journalist. "What unites the group is that they legitimately want the students to be number one." 

In a world of constant evolution, striving to be better is of the upmost importance. Though we've seen positive change for female journalists, continuing to push the dialogue is essential.

With more and more women speaking out and taking precautions to protect themselves and their privacy, some improvement has been made. Those employed by larger companies often have great safeguards in place for their reporters. 

Although security on the road has tightened for many people, and privacy has improved in many aspects, the conversation still needs to continue. 

Concurrent with the Time's Up movement, women in the newsroom are now questioning the common practices still allowed today. Women are beginning to be heard more and more, and it's slowly becoming easier to speak out against injustices — yet, many people are still hesitant. 

"I loved being a sports writer, but we never really had time to look at the larger issues affecting our job," Reed said. "At the time, I thought 'Is this just how it is?'" 

Reflecting on her time as a sports writer, Reed said there were plenty of instances where she felt uneasy. She said she would begin to question herself when uncomfortable situations would arise. 

"Looking back, what I wish someone would've told me is when you're new in any job, you're learning not only how to do the job, but you're learning the culture of the job," Reed said. 

Often times in a work setting, inappropriate behavior is excused by bystanders who choose not to say anything. Some of these instances are more obvious to see and point out. Others are not so easily recognizable. 

"Many of the issues with sexism and racism in sports is not because people don't want to talk about these things, but they don't realize what elements of the culture make it sexist or racist in the first place," Reed said. "So many of these issues are just ingrained in the culture of sports that it's assumed to be common sense, that this is just how it is. So when someone speaks out, that can be perceived as a threat to these common sense ways." 

Women should no longer shy away from the challenge of the male-dominated field. While there has been positive change, there's still plenty of room for improvement. 

"I think we are doing a very good job, but I have gotten no sense that we just should stop and rest on our laurels," Reed said. "It's the constant desire to do better. Let's talk about more things, let's get better training, let's keep going."

Correction: Due to an editing error, Jourdan Rodrigue's name was misspelled. The article has been modified to reflect the changes. 

Reach the columnist at kcdoyle2@asu.edu or follow @kellydoyle06 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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