As often as women's sports advocates lament the lack of coverage given to the games they love, it is important to recognize the efforts to cover sports more equitably.
Yes, even if it just means more women's sports coverage for Seattle, among the most well covered cities in women's basketball, if not women's sports as a whole.
While newspapers around the nation have been downsizing sports departments, Seattle Times staff reporter Jayda Evans announced today that her editors will have her travel with the UW women's basketball team this season in addition to covering Gonzaga University, Seattle University and Washington State University.
Ironically, the decision to increase their coverage of women's college basketball comes just before UW embarks upon a season with last-place expectations among Pac-10 media. However, the very fact that UW is apparently held in such low regard by media across the west coast is what makes the decision a "major step" given the dominant logic for the minimal coverage of women's sports, as described Heather D. Maxwell, PhD at the Tucker Center blog.
Those in positions of power in traditional media routinely claim that minimal women’s sport coverage is due to the perceived "lack of interest" in women’s sport. Yet some worry traditional media decision makers will point supporters of women’s sport and female athletes to social media as a viable alternative. If female athletes, advocates of women’s sport, women’s sport teams and female sport journalists can use social media to promote themselves and their teams then traditional media can continue not to—and therefore the status quo remains unchanged and unchallenged.
The Seattle Times -- a paper that has definitely done its part in covering women's sports over time -- is challenging the status quo simply by covering a women's sports team that should easily be dismissed by the dominant sports media logic.
Further adding to the irony, Stanford University -- unanimously voted the favorite to win the Pac-10 in the 2009-2010 season -- has no traveling beat writer. It's just another sign that the Times -- personified by Evans -- is clearly establishing itself as a leader in women's sports coverage with its coverage of both professional and college basketball.
Certainly there is more work to be done in terms of improving coverage of women's sports, but the Seattle Times deserves credit for their support of Evans and women's basketball. If coverage is what we value, then we have to show recognition, as described by Mechelle Voepel regarding ESPN's decision to send her to cover the WNBA playoffs.
...I think it’s important for readers to know that their feedback really is crucial. Coverage of women’s sports isn’t a given, folks. It never was, and the way things have been going economically, it has become more imperiled (at least from the standpoint of writers.)
Whenever a decision comes "from above" that’s in favor of getting better coverage, it’s to be appreciated. If you do appreciate it _ and I don’t just mean with me, but any journalist who covers women’s sports _ the best way you can show it is by letting editors know. Send e-mails or make phone calls saying, "Thanks for the coverage," and tell them it’s important to you because you’re a consumer who cares about women’s sports.
If reader appreciation is valued by ESPN, it is almost certainly valued by local media outlets like the Seattle Times. As such, here is where you can send your appreciation to the Times:
How to contact sports
Phone: (206) 464-2276
Fax: (206) 464-3255
E-mail: Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Snail mail: Sports Editor, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111
Women's sports has gotten "off the style section and in the sports section" to borrow a phrase from Billie Jean King, but as Voepel suggests, it's not a given and will require our action to maintain.
Women in Sports Journalism: Passionate Personality
In the early 1970s, The Associated Press estimated only 25 women worked in U.S. newspaper sports departments, and just five worked in sports broadcasting. Now, roughly 10 percent of the sports media industry is comprised of women. Though this increase is promising, Marie Hardin, associate director for research of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State, said she believes women still have "token status" in the workplace.
"I don’t know that women have really broken through yet," Hardin said. "Collectively, we still have a long way to go."