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“You deserve to be in the room, you deserve to take up space”: A woman’s place in sports journalism

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A panel of five female journalists spoke today of knowing their right to exist and take up space within the world of sports journalism.

Speaking at Leeds Trinity’s Journalism and Media Week, the women discussed the challenges they have faced throughout their careers because of their gender.

Katie Smith, a BBC sports journalist, said: “I think sometimes women, or I, have to go above and beyond, have to have that extra hour of work or bit of information that no one else knows because naturally I’m not taken as seriously, or people seem confused that you’re into sport as a woman.”

In a recent 2022 survey for Women in Journalism (Scotland), female journalists said they experienced misogyny both at the hands of fans and within the newsroom.

Katie Whyatt, a football correspondent at The Athletic, said when she first began her career four years ago, she would receive abusive comments and would internalise “the message that no one cares”.

However, throughout her career Whyatt said she realised: “You deserve to be in the room, you deserve to take up space.”

Charlotte Swift – a BBC Five Live Sport journalist and assistant producer on Test Match Special – echoed Whyatt’s point. “We didn’t get our jobs because we’re women, we got our jobs because we’re all bloody good at it.”

Whilst greater gender equality has been a point of focus within sports coverage over the last few years Swift says behind the scenes there remains a large gap in the proportion of men to women.

She said she believes it is important that this changes because she naturally sees women’s sports differently to how men would.

Swift suggested further differences within the world of men’s and women’s journalism as she said she preferred working within women’s cricket “because the people you work with are not as high profile” and the men have “bigger egos”.

She called on men to change the way that they think about women doing sport.

The other speakers also hoped for change within the industry as Whyatt said she felt many outlets still saw women’s sport at something to be only covered by women.

Smith felt there was still some way to go in the industry – this was perhaps reflected in the panel’s different views on the term ‘women in sport’.

For Swift, the term was something of a misnomer. “I wouldn’t think of myself as a woman in sport,” she told the audience. “I wouldn’t think of all of us being women sports journalists – that’s not what we are, we’re sports journalists.”

But Whyatt said if we use the term, we are paying special attention to women in sport and if we use a generalised term, it is easy to recourse to a traditional male-focussed narrative.

Ultimately Swift said of the women: “I think we’re a bit better, but you know that’s subjective!”

Khya Gott and Megan Worsell also took part in the panel as recent graduates of Leeds Trinity University.

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