Players and TV Execs Need to Respect Women Reporters

The boorish and sexist behavior of New York Jets players towards TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz last Saturday clearly shows that there is still a long way to go for female sports journalists to be accepted as just reporters by players in professional sports.  However, the blame game should not just be placed at the hands of the Jets players and other professional and collegiate athletes for that matter, but also on the shoulders of corporate television executives that help foster such reactions.

All companies today must be sensitive to placing employees in situations that can lead to sexual harassment.  A high profile scenario involving a professional sports franchise helps in creating additional awareness for the need to educate the workforce to the sensitivities of sexual harassment.

Network executives should be conscious of this fact.  Is it  just a coincidence that every regional network –televised major league baseball and college football game now has a young, attractive female reporter doing sideline or between innings reports?  Are they really there because of their knowledge of the game and ability as broadcasters or as a pretty face meant to attract more male viewers?   Networks should make sure that these female reporters are protected and also placed into situations because of their skills as broadcasters and not just to be an attractive side attraction for the viewing audience.

Sure sports television is entertainment.  It also is formulaic.  Once one network does something, the others follow suit. Thus, we are now blessed with nightly inane reports from the stands during major league baseball games, just so a female reporter can be featured.  At times, there is news that comes out of it.  I watch the nightly games on Yes Network and see Kimberly Jones’ reports each night. Jones is a solid reporter who honed her skills as an NFL beat writer for the Newark Star Ledger and still does so.  She is able to offer perspective from the clubhouse but is often placed in situations that really have no relevance on the game, like having someone take a bite out of the pork chop on a stick that she held earlier this year at a game in Minnesota.   Nancy Newman, who anchors for Yes, is another solid professional, who is a good field reporter as well.  Suzyn Waldman, the Yankees radio voice who made history last year by being the first female broadcaster to announce a World Series Game, is a pioneer for women journalists.  She worked tirelessly through the years to establish herself as a reporter, crediting the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for giving her the opportunity. She had to first convince him that she merited acceptance as a beat reporter. Later on, he gave her the chance as a broadcaster.

Ines Sainz deserved better from the Jets. She also deserves to be placed into better situations by her network.  As more females enter the sports broadcasting field, they too should demand to be treated better by their producers and network executives.  Women sports broadcasting pioneers like Waldman, Lesley Visser and others, did not work countless games and scurry around hundreds of locker rooms looking for stories, in order for a new generation of female broadcasters to be placed in positions just to be seen. 

This is 2010. There’s still a need for journalistic ethics.  It’s time to reinforce the need for respect from not just the players, the adult audience at home, but the executives in the C-Suite as well.

Tom Cosentino

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