Photo by Martin Bustamante
By Liz Carranza
Back in March I visited New York for the Society for Collegiate Journalists Conference, where journalism programs from around the nation gathered for workshops varying in investigative reporting, sports and photography contests. I met students from some of the top universities in the nation, such as the University of Alabama, the University of Florida and the University of Connecticut. While it was an experience I will cherish dearly, I left the conference with disappointment.
It was disappointing to see the lack of diversity within the sports seminars, and the conference as a whole. Sports journalism – and sports in general – is male-dominated. It is rare to see women in these fields receive the adequate recognition and respect. There is a misconception that women in sports journalism have no knowledge about sports and are just a pretty face.
I remember stepping into the first sports seminar on the first day of the conference; I felt the entire room stare me down as I took a seat in the front row. At first, I thought people were staring at me because I was dressed in all black with my gold septum jewelry shining from my nose, but I was wrong. I slowly turned around to a sea of people, and realized I was the only person of color. To top it all off, I was one of three women in the room. I immediately felt uncomfortable.
I shrugged off the uncomfortable stares and continued to stay positive that the next sports seminars would bring more people of color. Again, I was wrong. Every time I stepped into any of the sports seminars, eyes were glued on me.
I’ve had a few individuals tell me that the only reason why I chose to become a sports journalist was so I could interview “attractive men” and be the “pretty face in front of the camera.” I can’t help but laugh at their comments. I chose this career because I love writing about sports. I have a very personal connection to it because of my family. If you read my first column piece, you’ll remember that sports have always been an important part of my life. Family bonding in my childhood revolved around attending sporting events or watching the events from home.
I love finding out new things about athletes that you normally would not discover from them on the field. It’s the little moments in sports that make me love writing about them. It’s when you interview an athlete and they tell you the obstacles they overcame to get to where they are.
Back in early June, thanks to one of my journalism professors, I had the opportunity to attend the Oakland Raiders’ Organized Team Activities. When I saw Raiders’ kicker Sebastian Janikowski standing 10 feet away from me, I just wanted to burst out in excitement. Of course I kept my cool and wrote down notes in my black moleskin notepad. Then I saw one of my favorite Raiders’ player, Charles Woodson, run down the dashes next to me as he started firing up the rookie squad with encouragement. As I prepared to enter the conference room, I felt nervous and my stomach turned into knots. I was in a room filled with sports journalists, and I was the only woman of color. It was at that moment I knew I chose a career I love. It was also at that moment that I realized that I have the power to make a change.
Yes, there’s been positives in the sports world involving female athletes. We saw the U.S. Women’s National Team defeat Japan in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup to become the first national women’s team to win the Cup three times. Yes, we have Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey dominating their sport, but what about women in the sports media? What are they receiving? Nothing really.
Returning from New York and attending the Raiders’ Organized Team Activities really motivated me to continue with sports journalism, especially with the lack of women of color in the field. I want to make an impact in the field and demonstrate that women do know about sports, and that we do have knowledge about stats, sports history and athletes.
Women of color – and really all women – bring something new to sports journalism. In a platform that is dominated by men, I believe women have the ability and knowledge to tell sports stories. We bring different opinions and ideas to the table, just like men in sports media do. I think sports newsrooms need more women, especially more women of color, into their platforms, so the stereotype of “just a pretty face behind the camera” can end.