The suspension of Baltimore Ravens Running back Ray Rice for domestic violence involving his then-fiancé in July sparked a flurry of activity in various media platforms (Laird, 2014, par. 1). The bulk of the action took place and was covered by sports media. During this period, however, an unprecedented attack on female media presenters who dared voice their opinions was witnessed. This paper will look into the challenges facing female sports media presenters in delivering content and getting into the industry.
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Misogyny is a big problem facing female presenters in the sports media industry. According to Laird (2014) when talking to Deitsch, the last 12 months have shown a growth in the intensity of negative moments towards women anchors with Deitsch seeing the problem getting worse (par. 8).
The growth in social media has made it possible for the issue to escalate. It is estimated that one in every three people on the planet is connected to the internet (Schultz & Sheffer, 2011). With such exposure, we encounter cases such as the reactions on Facebook and Twitter to Amy Lawrence’s criticism of Ray Rice’s suspension (Laird, 2014, par. 9). The insults thrown at her were targeting here individualism rather than her professional conduct, which in this case, was exemplary.
The issue of misogyny, unfortunately, is not new to media broadcasting. Melissa Block in 2011 interviewed Andrea Kremer a veteran journalist, who was working for ESPN, about an incident involving Ron Franklin (NPR, 2011).
Ron Franklin had called Kremer an obscenity after she refused to be called sweet baby resulting in his getting fired after he issued an apology (NPR, 2011, par 1). Later in the same year, an investigative reporter, Justine Gubar, invoked the wrath of Ohio Buckeyes fans after she ran a story depicting Jim Tressel as a rules violator (Laird, 2014, par. 12). The insults soon followed on her Twitter, Facebook, and home-phone messaging machine.
The two examples above show how internal and external pressure creates a hostile environment for women in the media industry. Internally, women are to bear working with men who consider their presence as superficial and not contributory. According to Kremer, such incidents only invoke remarks that seek to find out what women are doing in sports in the first place (NPR, 2011, par. 7).
A failure in seeing the real issue, which is a lack of professionalism by the men instigating abuse. Externally, the attack on female presenters by fans depicts a rot in society. The failure to see the significance of their contribution is heightened by the insults traded, which focus squarely on their looks.
Coupled with the misogynistic hurdle women presenters face is that of unfair representation in the workplace. Since 1993, the ratio of men to women presenters has remained relatively constant (Morrison, 2014). Despite there being talks to achieve gender parity in the newsrooms, the majority of presenters are still men (Morrison, 2014, par. 3).
Media owners perceive women as being incapable of delivering news or gathering the information that is of value. Their case suffers another blow in light of the trends in social media. There, a majority of women are drawn by the conversation and social aspects while most men remain drawn to data and hard facts. This makes it hard for women to convince men that they can do a good job as reporters.
Women are also perceived as sex symbols, a factor which means that they get jobs where their looks are the primary elimination tool. A report by Morrison (2014) points out four headlines that focus on the looks of the presenters over their skills, the captions are:
“50 Hottest Female Sports Broadcasters from Around the World,” “20 Sexiest Sports Reporters of 2012,” “20 Sexiest Local Sports Broadcasters,” or “40 Hottest College Football Reporters.” (par. 7)
Female reporters are often offered the position of sideline reporter. Their primary role in this position is to provide feedback during breaks. According to Kremer during her interview, the job entails giving a 25 second summary of the match while someone is talking in your ear and the noise from 65000 people screaming engulfs you (NPR, 2011, par. 12).
Looking at the significance of the report in the overall newscast is little. However, the presence of the beautiful reporter during the break provides the men with amusement as they await the game to continue. The replacement of Pam Oliver with Erin Andrews as a sideline reporter clearly demonstrates the perception that looks are a must (Laird, 2014, par. 14)
The lack of upward mobility for women in the sports media sector can be accounted for by the firm grip men have on sports issues. From creating content as players, supporting it as fans, and presenting it as media anchors, women are left with little to contribute. The only role men seem to have left for women is that of sideline reporters or co-anchors.
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The reason is to have beautiful women to look at as they wait for the break to end. In case women forget their places and resort to commenting on issues, they are met with abuse and ridicule. To achieve any form of progress career-wise, the women reporters need to have the knowledge and the looks. This combination will guarantee they enter the male-dominated world of sports media and possibly flourish.
Laird, S. (2014, August 1). Sports Media Misogyny: What Is Fans’ Problem With Female Commentators? Retrieved from Mashable: http://mashable.com/2014/08/01/women-sports-twitter/
Morrison, S. (2014, February 19). Media is ‘failing women’ — sports journalism particularly so. Retrieved from Poynter: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/240240/media-is-failing-women-sports-journalism-particularly-so/
NPR. (2011, January 07). Journalist On Challenges Facing Female Sports Reporters. Retrieved from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/07/132743630/Journalist-On-Challenges-Facing-Female-Sports-Reporters
Schultz, B., & Sheffer, M. L. (2011, October). Factors Influencing Sports Consumption in the Era of New Media. Web Journal of Mass Communication Research(37). Retrieved from http://www.scripps.ohiou.edu/wjmcr/vol37/37.html
The Associated Press. (2014, May 1). Ray Rice offered plea bargain in aggravated assault case. Retrieved from National Footbal league: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000345794/article/ray-rice-offered-plea-bargain-in-aggravated-assault-case