Women in sports media: Milestone with two female columnists on cover of USA Today; Numbers, though, should be higher

Excerpts from my latest column for Poynter.

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The sports front page of the April 9 edition of USA Today featured two columns from the Masters. Nancy Armour wrote about Bubba Watson, while Christine Brennan looked at the favorites for the tournament.

Think about that for a moment: Two women sports columnists being prominently displayed on by the one of the nation’s top circulation newspaper, and they were writing about the top men’s event in golf.

Did you notice?

“If people didn’t notice, that’s great,” Brennan said.

Indeed, the columns show how far women have come from the days, not that long ago, when they weren’t allowed in locker rooms. Women are read, seen and heard on various platforms in sports. It also should be noted the sports editor for that edition was Mary Byrne, who has since left the paper to join ESPN.com.

Yet that USA Today sports front, while an encouraging snapshot, doesn’t tell the entire story. Sadly in 2015, there still is a long way for women to go in sports media. In 2012, the Associated Press Sports Editors commissioned a report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. The grades for gender for total staff and sports editors: F. The situation hasn’t improved much since then.

The good and the bad will be discussed when the Association for Women in Sports Media launches their annual convention Saturday in Denver. The association is more commonly referred to as “awesome” based on its initials, AWSM.

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Michaelis, though, expected more progress. She called the early ’90, when she started her career, “a golden age” for women. Pioneers like Brennan and others in the ‘70s and ‘80s blew open doors for young female sportswriters like Michaelis. However, 20 years later, women still make up roughly 10 percent of overall staff for newspaper sports sections.

“If you had asked me in 1995, what would sports departments look like in 20 years, I would have said women likely would have made up 25 percent,” Michaelis said. “And that might not have been optimistic enough. It’s very distressing there hasn’t been more growth.”

 

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