A League of Her Own

By Molly Gallagher

SU female breaks into the testosterone-filled field of sports journalism

Last Tuesday at the Cornell vs. Syracuse lacrosse match, Natalie McGurn stood in the bleachers with her friends. Men played on the field, filled the stands, and reported on the game from the sidelines and press boxes. All the girls, except for McGurn, screamed and cheered on the team.

She was busy analyzing each move the Syracuse University lacrosse players made. McGurn thinks if the team learns how to play with each other, sticks to its distinct style of lacrosse, and doesn’t give up, the Orange may go on to win their third national championship.

McGurn, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, wants to be a sports journalist. At SU, she works for the sports department for CitrusTV, the sports talk department at WAER radio station, and a sports talk show at Z89 radio station.

Few girls are found working in sports journalism at the three stations, but McGurn works at CitrusTV as much as seven hours per night, three nights per week. At WAER, McGurn works behind the scenes for the sports talk show, “ZJ’s Double Overtime.”
And each Sunday morning, McGurn goes on air at Z89 for the sports talk show, “Wise Guys,” a show whose name itself demonstrates the male-dominated land of sports journalism at SU.

When first starting at WAER, she had to gain respect from the men who worked there, she said. On her first day, she said she overheard comments from the male staff: “She’s a girl; she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

“The first thing is you really have to prove yourself more than boys,” says McGurn. Since she started at CitrusTV, WAER, and Z89, she made sure to listen to any suggestions her male counterparts gave her.

“If you don’t take what they’re saying and run with it, if you don’t listen to constructive criticism…you’re going to fail miserably [in sports journalism] if you’re a girl.”

McGurn knows she is playing on guys’ turf. In society, sports are constructed as a male field, said Bradley Gorham, a professor of race and diversity in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

“The problem with females in sports journalism is males in sports journalism,” Gorham says. Many factors contribute to the male focus of sports: men watching sports, the marketing of athletes, broadcast networks (ESPN), Sports Illustrated, and sports
radio. “You listen to any sports radio station in any major city and you’re very unlikely to hear a female voice on there,” Gorham said. This sends a message to females to stay away, he says.

But McGurn doesn’t care. At home growing up, sports were always on in her living room. Her brothers and dad didn’t talk to her during the games unless she talked with them about the game. McGurn learned the ins and outs of each game by playing basketball in high school and football with her brothers. But she is aware of the challenges that come with being a female in a male-dominated workplace.

Prominent female sports journalists are recognized most of the time because of their looks rather than their sports knowledge.

“There are a lot of men who look at women on the sidelines of football games especially, or basketball, and say, ‘Well they’re just there for good PR,’ or ‘They’re there as somebody to look at, but they don’t actually know anything about sports,’ and of course
that’s wrong,” Gorham said.

Erin Andrews, a sideline reporter for ESPN, is a prime example. Google her and you’ll find links to a nude video, stories about the reporter’s appearances on “Dancing with the Stars,” and picture after picture of the reporter’s busty chest and blonde hair.

It does not hurt to be attractive in the field of broadcast journalism, McGurn said. “Anyone will tell you in the broadcast field here, or anywhere…it helps if you’re pretty,” she said.

McGurn said her father worries men will judge her and that she will need to take extreme measures, such as plastic surgery, in order to be successful. In order to thrive in the field, McGurn knows she has a lot to overcome. “I’m working harder and making
sure everything is perfect so people take me more seriously,” she said.

McGurn says it’s her love for sports that encourages her to continue pursuing her dream job as a sports reporter. She enjoys working on stories and being in front of the camera. Sports are something that bring people together, McGurn said. “Whether
you are a diehard fan or not, everyone grows up with someone around them that’s cheering for a team.”


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