Sports journalism is a career that allows reporters to be on the front lines of big games and cover big-time athletes. However, the landscape of sports journalism is mostly made up of men as reporters and anchors.
Throughout the years, more women have earned their place in sports journalism, rising through the ranks to lead some sports departments. Simone Eli is currently the sports director at WKRG in Mobile, the first female in the station’s history.
“To have the opportunity to really call this my own when it comes to the department, and to be able to lead our sports coverage really means a lot to me. It’s something early on in your career, you dream about, you hope about that you’ll get the big chair,” said Eli.
The sports department at WHNT in Huntsville is led by Olivia Whitmire, who is only the second female in the station’s history to serve in that position. She also leads an all female sports department.
“To be only the second female at my station to be presented with this opportunity. And now to have the opportunity to have the first ever all female sports department that’s something that’s really special to me,” said Whitmire.
Claudia Chakamian, WHNT’s weekend sports anchor and reporter, teamed with Whitmire in an all-female sports department. It’s a great milestone to recognize, and it was something that Chakamian didn’t think was possible at first. However, the leadership at WHNT made it clear they wanted the two best people in their sports department.
“I think I remember asking is there a concern about being an all female sports department? Like I asked the news director ‘What do you think of that?’ and he was like I don’t really care who it is as long as you’re good at your job,” said Chakamian.
While these women have proven their place in sports journalism, they’ve run into doubters in their career.
“A lot of men sometimes unfortunately think you know women don’t belong in this industry. I’ve had that told to me before, but they don’t matter,” said Chakamian.
“From viewers, certainly comments on social media. Like ‘Hey, I want to see a man delivering my sports,'” said Eli.
Despite those doubts, these women continued to thrive in their sports coverage. Some consistent traits among all the women is they have stayed true to their passion and constantly relied on their work ethic.
“You’ve got to be passionate. You’ve got to love what you do. That’s what defines you. Your work ethic. Your love for what you do. You can see when you truly love it,” said Chakamian.
Taylor Kauffman, sports anchor and reporter at CBS 42, believes one of the most important things any reporter can do is seek opportunities for themselves.
“The answer is always no unless you ask. Sometimes you’re only going to get better if you ask for opportunities, and so put yourself there,” said Kauffman.
Eli and Whitmire said they want women to always believe they belong in sports journalism and to stay focused.
“We belong- here on the fields, in the locker rooms telling these stories regardless of what the sports are,” said Eli.
“You just got to keep your eyes focused on you know what you want to do and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t,” said Whitmire.