Louisiana State University hosted a sports communication summit in the Holiday Forum of the school’s Journalism building on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. The event consisted of several different panels and gatherings of individuals from the field of Sports Communication discussing topics relevant to the industry.
When looking at the event’s program, which featured pictures and short descriptions of each of the speakers, it was evident that the summit was going to be overflowing with testosterone. This was to be expected, considering most sports-centered events are usually dominated by males rather than females. However, when glancing at the schedule for the summit, one particular panel entitled “Women in Sports Journalism: Issues and Stereotypes” stood out. On a page filled with masculinity, this one section offered a dash of femininity, featuring only the names of women.
“Women in Sports Journalism: Issues and Stereotypes” was moderated by Katherine Terrel and featured panelists Erin Cofiell, Kathleen Francis, Kelsey Wingert, and Cheri Kempf. The session began with the viewing of a YouTube video entitled “#MoreThanMean – Women in Sports ‘Face’ Harassment,” which highlighted the brutality that women sports broadcasters face on their Twitter accounts. The video allowed the panelists to naturally transition into their first topic of discussion: social media. The women each discussed their personal experiences with negativity on social media and how they have handled it throughout their careers. Kelsey Wingert, sideline reporter for Fox Sports South and Southeast and host for the Atlanta Braves, discussed how she had to learn to not let social media affect her in any way, saying, “You can’t let the mean tweets get to you, and you can’t let the good tweets get to you.” Other than social media, the panelists also discussed several other topics centered around being a female or an “outsider,”as they continuously stated, in the world of sports.
One discussion that stood out was the topic of professionalism in locker rooms. The panelists spoke about the importance of maintaining professionalism in locker rooms in order to gain respect. Sports director, Erin Cofiell, made the comment, “The players respect you when you respect them.” While this comment is extremely relevant, it is also indicative of the obvious partition between men and women in the industry of Sports Communication. In reality, a panel filled with only male journalists would never have a discussion about how they gain respect and maintain professionalism in locker rooms just because of their gender.
It is hard to ignore the natural divide between men and women in this industry. During different sessions of the summit, the division between the men and women was hard to ignore. For example, Cheri Kempf, who appeared on the panel of women mentioned earlier, also appeared in another session entitled “Fielding the Microphone” where she sat on a panel with only male counterparts. During the session, each panelist was asked a series of questions by moderator, Tim Brando, focusing on gaining success in the industry of Sports Communication. Throughout the session, it was evident that Kempf was being referenced far less than the males sitting to her left and right. When she was asked questions, they usually focused on the fact that she is a woman. While her male peers were asked about their experiences in the world of sports communication, Kempf was asked about her experience in the world of sports communication…as a woman.
While it is natural to create a division between males and females, it is not always fair. The women in attendance at the Louisiana State University Sports Communication Summit were all successful individuals who deserved to be seen as more than their gender. While it was obvious that it was not the intention of anyone at the summit to belittle these women, it subconsciously occurred anyway due to the innate misconception that women are inferior to men.