Women sports reporters making strides

sports panel

Title IX paved the way for the growth in women's sports, and it can also open doors for female sports reporters. That was brought out in the workshop on "Who's Covering First? Women in Sports Journalism" during the NFPW conference.

Marcia Neville and Susie Wargin, both television sports reporters in Denver, and Vicki Michaelis, the lead Olympics reporter and Denver bureau sports reporter for USA Today, spoke about the changes in women's sports.

Neville, who specializes in high school sports, said when girls basketball first got going after Title IX, scores were in the range of 22-14 and five mothers made up the crowd. Today, she said, individual girls score 25 to 30 points a game, with the crowd rivaling that of the boys' games — and the boys come out to support the girls.

She also expects that Title IX will increase the number of women sports reporters. "The boys are growing up knowing that girls are in sports," she said.

Those attending the session expressed their views that women reporters on the sidelines were doing fluff pieces, but Wargin said that is what sideline reporting is — just fluff — whether it is a man or a woman doing the reporting.

When the question of when will a woman do play-by-play, the panelists said the time is right for a woman to report in that capacity. However, Neville said it probably wouldn't happen while popular broadcaster Al Michaels is still working, because he has that field sewn up.

They all agreed that whatever woman gets that position, she should know what she is talking about. Neville and Wargin grew up watching and learning sports, while Michaelis had hopes of being a business reporter.

When she was assigned to cover high school sports in Palm Beach, Fla., Michaelis said her editor asked, "You know what a forward pass is, don't you?" She responded, "Isn't that what you throw when you hit a home run?" She said she would have been as clueless if they had assigned her the city council beat.

Marcia Neville Susie WarginVicki Michaelis

Michaelis also said it is important for a sports writer to know what happens in court as well as what happens on the court because so many athletes have experiences with the legal system.

— Sandra Latimer, Ohio Professional Writers