Women in Sports Media Discuss Their Industry

News Story: May 3, 2016
Professor Bill Yousman, left, moderates a “Working On Air” panel session with Jen Lada, sports reporter and anchor; Marti Hanzlik, coordinating director; and Therese Andrews, project manager. All three panelists are from ESPN.

Talented female professionals from ESPN, NBC Sports and TIME, Inc., recently offered industry insights regarding women as sports reporters during Sacred Heart University’s first-ever Symposium on Women in Sports Media, “Getting in the Game.”

The University’s Sports Communication Media (SCM) Graduate Program conducted the symposium, which comprised panel sessions titled, “Behind the Camera,” “Working on Air” and “Marketing & Promotions.” About 40 people, primarily female graduate students in the SCM program, attended the sessions, which took place in the Martire Business and Communications Center. Panelists described the nuts and bolts of their particular jobs and fielded questions.

Andrew Miller, director of SHU’s SCM program, spearheaded the event. “I’m really excited about this event and hope it will be an annual feature,” he said.

Miller introduced Ellen Woolf from the Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media. She referred to the panelists as “trailblazers and rock stars in the media industry” and urged students to be bold as they begin their careers. “Whether by DNA or necessity, women’s responsibilities are often complicated,” Woolf said. “Value is hard to regurgitate fluidly. Today, you have more access to opportunities in sports media. Now when someone asks you what you do, you need to clearly state your value.”

One “Behind the Camera” speaker, Maureen Barend, associate director of transmission at ESPN, advised students to embrace technology and take computer classes. “You will probably be by yourself a lot,” Barend said. “The better your understanding, the better you will be. There’s a crazy demand for women in technology. We want women’s input on apps and in all aspects of the company.”

Barend’s fellow panelist, Slaine Kelly, production associate at NBC Sports, shared advice on interviewing. “Having confidence in myself was key to being hired. A first question was ‘Have you failed and how did you handle it?’ I said ‘yes’ and that it was motivation to do better. The interviewer appreciated that…Have passion, confidence and love what you do.”

“Working on Air” panelist Jen Lada, sports reporter and anchor at ESPN, spoke about challenges to women in the industry. “There are not enough of us,” Lada said. “I’ve been seeking out allies since getting to ESPN who can give me a roadmap. Networks are so large. As much as women have made strides, it can still be challenging to get ideas across.”

“Marketing & Promotions” panelist Heather Croteau, producer and editor for marketing on-air promotions at ESPN, assured her audience, “Sports media is one of the most stable industries. Sports transcends disruptions like a stock market crash.”

Graduate student Meredith Pinto appreciated the opportunity to hear what the professionals had to say. “This is so great for women,” Pinto said. “All these incredible women gave their time and insights to us students who want to be like them someday.”

Mario Miranda, a graduate assistant who helped prepare the event, said, “The symposium is important for our school and shows how much this sector is growing. Women often get overlooked in this industry—here we have a high concentration of professionals and students. Sacred Heart is becoming a hotbed for people seeking to get into the sports media industry—on air, behind the camera and in promotions and marketing.”

Paul Pabst, executive producer of the syndicated sports-talk program, “The Dan Patrick Show,” and moderator of a featured conversation with ESPN sportswriter Jemele Hill, echoed Miranda’s comments. “Sacred Heart is in the perfect physical location, between ESPN, NBC Sports and New York City,” he said. “Our students can interview on the same day as classes. They can do internships in the spring and fall while going to school.”

Pabst helped develop the one-year SCM graduate program five years ago. “Once it was approved, the next step was to build state-of-the-art studios,” he said. “Credit goes to the University in seeing the vision. It’s here in less than five years. Graduates will work on the same equipment in the workplace—there’s no learning curve.”

He said the graduate program is building relationships with major networks so Sacred Heart can place its SCM students in internships and jobs, not just wish them well. “The bigger goal, as we flood the market with our graduates, is that our grads will hire fellow grads and students,” he noted.

Women in Sports Media 4/23/16