NBCSports Boston’s Abby Chin on sexism in sports media

Abby Chin, a sports reporter and anchor for NBCSports Boston Celtics Postgame, is a trailblazer. She is one of the growing number of women in sports media today, actively demonstrating how there is a place for women not only in sports but in sports coverage and analysis. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Chin to discuss what it’s like being a woman in the sports media industry and to get some key advice for pursuing this career.

“I think every woman that you’ll talk to who’s in this business understands that we have to be as prepared, if not more prepared as anyone because our credibility is questioned from the jump.… I think every woman I’ve ever met in this business is here for the challenge and ready to succeed,” Abby Chin stated.

The first woman to compete in the Olympics, Hélène de Pourtalès of Switzerland, broke that important barrier in 1900, but professional sports remained resolutely male until about 80 years ago. Everyone on the field, court, and rink were all men: coaching staff, referees, the guys in the booth, interviewers, and analysts. Then came 1960, the first time that televised Olympics reached American televisions, giving many American viewers their first sight of female athletes performing at a high level.

Eleven years later, in 1972, things began to change more rapidly for both female athletes and female sports journalists, after Title IX was passed in federal courts. Title IX made it illegal for educational institutions to be inequitable in their sports programs when it comes to gender. This gave girls and young women in secondary schools and colleges the opportunity to be fully exposed to sports, including the media coverage of it.

Journalists like Lisa Salters, Doris Burke, Michelle Tafoya, and so many others have paved the way for women in sports media by working through issues like the limitations on interview locations, especially keeping female journalists out of locker rooms, giving better interviews to men, and breaking down the stereotypes about women in sports.

Now we have reporters like Abby Chin entering the sports media world to continue this work of changing the culture of sports journalism in America. 

Chin had her first exposure to broadcast journalism as a young girl, watching the Today Show: “I remember … watching the Today Show every morning and wanting to be Katie Couric, but I didn’t know what that necessarily meant.” Chin added that there wasn’t a lot of talk about broadcast journalism, especially the sports section, in relation to female careers, and she only became interested in it when she attended the University of Colorado.

From there, Chin got her start as a production assistant at ESPN Classic. She did a lot of behind-the-scenes work at Monday Night Football games, the XGames, and a women’s NCAA tournament. Chin decided to take the leap, make a live tape, and submit it to different networks. She was picked up by a station in Montgomery, Alabama, doing sideline reporting at high school football games.

As someone who is strongly considering this career path, I was fascinated by Chin’s journey. I hadn’t taken into account the humble beginnings of a lot of big-time reporters’ careers. In my mind, it was always you get “the big internship” and work your way up from there. I do think, however, that these smaller jobs are still harder to come by for women, given the stereotypes that still exist.

The broadcaster/announcer industry is 76.3% male, and only 11% of SportsCenter anchors and ancillary reporters are female, as of 2009. If there were any skeptics reading this article, the numbers don’t lie — men rule this job.

Chin has experienced sexism in her tenure as a reporter and in pursuing other positions. Earlier in her career, when she was applying for a producer position, the sports director asked her if she was ready and committed to this career path. Chin recalled, “I got the sense that he was like, ‘Are you going to get married and leave, is this really what you want to be doing, and are you actually going to put effort towards this’ and I was really offended by it because … it’s not a question that you would ask a man!”

As for the future of women in sports broadcasting, every sports season there seems to be a new female anchor or reporter, so the numbers are steadily climbing. “I think it’s huge,” Chin noted. “I mean we’re seeing it right now with what’s going on in society but the diversity of voices and perspectives is so important.” If sports channels and radio stations acknowledge these important perspectives as Chin does, there is a likelihood that we will be seeing many more female faces in traditionally male places.

It’s been very impactful for me, an aspiring sports journalist, to see the influx of women in sports media because it forms a real hope that this job can be accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, race, and other differences that currently would set them back. There are many subtleties that permeate the sports media industry regarding sexism, but it’s not something that should stop any girl from pursuing this creative industry.

“You have every right to be there…. Work hard, be prepared.… Try to be as bulletproof as possible in what you’re doing,” is Chin’s advice.

Image source: Everipedia.

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