Sports Journalism: It’s A Man’s Job!

Female journalists invade the sanctity of the newsroom, leave them with the soft news.

Abby Wynne
Dec 8, 2020 · 6 min read
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Earlier this week I watched Tottenham play Arsenal in a football premier league match on TV. I also stuck around to watch the after-match commentary on Sky. Three pundits were sat around a table discussing the game. One of whom was Alex Scott; an ex-international women’s football player.

This got me thinking, how often do you see women on TV or hear them on the radio commentating men's football? Or similarly, what is the ratio of male to female sports journalists?

Not very favourable to women, is it?

Why is this?

In the book “News, Gender and Power”, Stuart Allen argues that there is the notion of “female journalists invading the sanctity of the newsroom” and that today it is still a predominantly male domain of work.

Allen believes that there are deep-rooted sexist assumptions about women’s professional capacities as journalists. This results in a divide of who reports which type of news; ‘hard’ news typically covered by male journalists, and ‘soft’ news reported by female journalists.

Additionally, women’s sport has always been hidden in the shadows of the male-dominated industry.

It stems back from the 19th century when sport was regarded to be exclusively for men. It was a way for men to assert their masculinity and prove how much of a “man” they were. It wasn’t until 1990 that women were allowed to participate in the Olympics!

Sexism within journalism, paired with the fundamental sexism in sport, gives women very little opportunity to be seen or heard in the sports media sphere.

A research report on “Women in sport” states that:

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Given that male sport is covered significantly more than women’s, the commentators, pundits, and everyone in the sports-media sphere are more likely to be male.

The facts supporting gender bias in the news

I have watched football matches on TV all of my life, and it has always been apparent to me that women are underrepresented within sports media.

My presumptions were reinforced when I read an article that highlighted that only 11% of people working behind and in front of the camera within sports media are women.

It also identified that;

“In 2017 it looked like this: 90% of sports editors were men; 88.5% of sports reporters were men; 83.4% of columnists were men; 79.6% of copy editors/designers were men, and; 69.9% of assistant sports editors were men.”

Arguably, it is a lot more common for women to commentate for athletics or tennis. Moreover, there has been an improvement in the ratio of male to female football commentators. However, as the biggest and most widespread sport in the world, there is still more work to be done.

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Public Opinion

The few female football commentators, presenters, and pundits, that there are in football, are susceptible to suffer abuse from some of the public.

Men are deemed to be more suitable to comment on football since it’s most likely, men playing. They are also presumed to be more knowledgeable and capable of understanding the sport because it was originally, only for men.

Furthermore, some people argue that women aren’t qualified enough to talk about professional men’s football, since they have “never played at that level”.

As seen in this video, some individuals simply don't like the sound of a women’s high-pitched voice.

Jason Cundy argues that he prefers to hear a male voice when he is watching male football.

“In those moments of drama, I would prefer a male voice. It’s nothing to do with their ability or expertise, it’s to do with their voice.”

Why should women be disadvantaged because of the pitch of their voice? If they are experts in the field then they should be able to commentate on it.

Still, as a female, I can understand the idea of wanting to hear a low pitched voice in a highly tense situation.

Low voices are associated with intimidation, and authority which in turn, gives the speaker a competitive advantage and adds to the drama. But this is just an idea that is ingrained in us because of deep-rooted patriarchy.

The more we hear high pitched, female, voices in moments of drama, the more we will grow accustomed to it.

Female Sports Journalists

When women are represented in sports journalism, they are open to hate from the public:

Clare balding refuses to report male football because of the ‘vile abuse’ she would get on social media;

“Any woman who pops up on a football programme offering expertise, or in the role of presenter, will be opening the door to such vile abuse on social media.”

However, Alex Scott has taken it and run with it and was the BBC’s first female pundit at a men’s World Cup in Russia in 2018. She also became the first woman on Sky Sports’ famous ‘Super Sunday’ team.

Nevertheless, it hasn’t been easy for her. The Independent posted an article that quotes her saying she has “lost herself and her personality” from the abuse on social media.

Another female sports presenter, Laura Woods, has spoken up about the sexism and hate she has encountered on social media. You can read more on this in the following link:

It isn’t easy for women in a male-dominated industry. But the more the stereotypes or challenged and broken down, then the more comfortable and natural it will be.

How can we end the gender bias in sports journalism?

The below video is a debate between Clare Balding and Martin Daubney about sexism in sport.

It is not explicitly about sports journalism. But, if we can tackle sexism within sports then this will hopefully mirror sexism within sports journalism.

Clare Balding touches on the fact that girls deserve to have female role models to see on TV and look up to. Also, these role models have earnt their place in the spotlight and should be praised for their talents.

Furthermore, the video addresses the perception that it’s about the audiences and the advertisers and that they want to see more men. Nevertheless, this isn’t justifiable. If the media constantly feeds audiences and advertisers male sport, and only have male commentators, then we are bound to think that that is what we want to hear and see.

“Whatever you feed them, that's what they think they like.”

Society has come accustomed to men reporting sport and it is up to the media to change this. Companies like the BBC and Sky need to empower more women in the workplace.

It doesn’t feel right that anyone should have to argue why there should be more equality in sports media.

Nevertheless, here are some reasons:

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What are your thoughts? Is this still something that needs to be discussed and changed, or do you think equality has been achieved?

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