The Role Of Female Sports Journalists And The Hurdles They Face

Today David Campese has got himself in a bit of trouble by voicing an opinion. After hearing that the Sydney Morning Herald had sent Georgina Robinson to cover the Australian Rugby Union team’s tour of Europe Campese made a controversial tweet and referenced former Sydney Morning Herald Rugby Union writer Greg Growden who was one of many Fairfax journalists who have recently been made redundant.

Campese tweeted: “Why does the smh get a girl to write about rugby. Growden who was a great jornio and now we have someone who has no idea about the game!”

It was blunt, but that is the way he feels, and instead of mindlessly attacking him maybe it is worth asking the big question….

Is he right?

Men and women are different. We have different strengths and weaknesses. There are some things men do better than women, and others that women do better than men.

When it comes to covering sport there isn’t a huge scope for women to show their different skill set to men, but occasionally, you do see it shine through. There is a much smaller sample size of women that cover sport in Australia, but it is growing. In that small sample size, you do get the entire cross section of different types of writers. From the controversial  to the insightful. From the analytical to the grafters.

One of the things all of these women face is that they have to prove themselves to a readership that is dominated by men. That is a tough ask, and any woman that decides to write about men’s sport knows that she is putting her reputation on the line every time she submits her work.

I follow a number of women that write about sport on Twitter and just about every single one of them will occasional get the line “What would you know, you’ve never played the game” put to them. It is simplistic, many times it is ignorant, but at the same time it is something that is difficult to argue against.

Does a man or a women need to have played a sport to be able to write about it? Of course not? Does it help? Yes.

I write about Rugby League and I have played Rugby League, but even I get asked from time to time, mostly by English fans “Have you ever even played the game?”. I personally believe that when you have played a sport you understand the demands of that sport better than someone that hasn’t played it. You have a better understanding of what you see at the professional level. I personally think it does give you a better perspective on what you see and eventually it allows you to analyse an event from the point of view of a participant of that sport.

Most of us, man or women, would rather hear the opinions of a writer that has played sport at its highest level. Why? Because we value the perspective they can give us as a former participant at that sports highest level. That is something we all value and it is something that shouldn’t be written off.

At the same time, if you haven’t played a sport and you write about it, you can write from a different perspective that can be refreshing to read. You can look at topics from a much greater perspective and put them in more of a real world context. That should not be written off either, we need that in sports journalism.

Personally, I don’t care if I’m reading an article written by a man or a women. There are plenty of sports journalists out there that are men, and they are bloody terrible. There are times when I read some articles and I’m not even half way through it before I wonder whether I should bother reading the rest of it. Other times I’ll read something I find really interesting. I get to the end of a good read, have a look at who the writer was, and it turns out it was a women.

I value all perspectives on sport because I believe it allows you to be open to a lot of different ideas you might not have thought about otherwise.

The really good female writers out there…I don’t even think of them as female writers. They are just good writers. They give as good of a perspective on sport as any man.

The problem that comes through with David Campese’s comments is that it shows there are men out there who are close minded and who therefore make it more difficult for good female writers to do their job. For the hurdles they already face in a male dominated industry, the last thing they need is some crusty old footballer writing them off just because they are women.

There are some great female sports writers out there and if you are writing them off just because they are women, you’re not getting the complete picture of the sport you follow. Men and women are different, we look at things differently, and if taking in both views of sport, you’ll find you have a better understanding of the sport you love.

So if you are a woman out there and you want to write about any sport, whether you have played it or not, feel free to write something and send it in to me. I’ll post it on this site because I want my readers to get the complete picture, not just views clouded by us ogres who used to play the game a long time ago.

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4 thoughts on “The Role Of Female Sports Journalists And The Hurdles They Face

  1. We’ve got some really good female sports journalists over here in the UK that cover football & RL. Any sports journalist needs a passion for the sport they are covering and a willingness to deepen their own understanding too. If they’ve got that coupled with the requisite journalist skills i see no issue with their sex. Claire Balding, who many thought was a bit of a ‘toff only into horse racing has been a breath of fresh air fronting the BBC’s live RL coverage. Quite openly a novice to the game, but a fan she if anything made the sport more accessible by asking the simple questions, and getting pundits to explain what something meant, making it easier for the lay watcher to get into the sport. As i mentioned earlier what clearly shines through is her passion. Gabby Logan does a fine job fronting football on the BBC, Jacqui Oatley is a superb football reporter & commentator. Angela Powers on Sky is great, if anything she should get more air time over some of the idiots Sky use.

    I think the crux of the arguement with Campese is ‘does the female reporter have the passion for the game?’ If so then there is no issue. If they’ve sent someone with no passion or understanding of the sport then he may have a point, as long as he’d use the same arguement if it were a man with little experience going.

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