When Robin Roberts first appeared on air as a small-market sportscaster in the mid-1980s, she was sure she could “feel beer cans pelting the TV sets.”
The only drinks in the air Monday will be respectful toasts for a pioneer in sports broadcasting. That’s when Arizona State University presents Roberts with the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at a downtown Phoenix hotel.
She is an ideal recipient.
To the dismay of curmudgeons who wanted to take the “broad” out of broadcasting, she persevered. To the delight of viewers who took the time to pay attention, she delivered sports news with an approachable style and professional air.
She paved the way for the underrepresented in sports journalism with asphalt made of integrity and concrete shaped by determination.
She is the personification of her ESPN catchphrase, “Go on with your bad self!”
Many know Roberts, 53, as an anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” My female peers and I remember her most for her work in sports. As we navigated challenging moments early in our careers, her poise and voice of authority on national TV was the nudge we needed to forge ahead.
“My earliest memories were (broadcasters) Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy,” Roberts said. “I had great admiration for them, but I didn’t want to be stuck talking to the coaches’ wives. I wanted to be Brent Musburger.”
For all the advancements women in sports journalism have made, challenges remain. It took until last week for an all-women sports talk show to appear on TV: “We Need to Talk” on the CBS Sports Network. Intriguing concept, dumb title.
Fingers are still wagging over Fox Sports’ decision to remove respected reporter Pam Oliver, 53, from her NFL sideline gig and replace her with Erin Andrews, who is 17 years younger. Many saw the move as confirmation that ageism is alive and well for women in sports broadcasting.
At least we are a far cry from the pre-Roberts era, when networks gave pageant contestants (George, Kennedy) first crack at sports broadcasting jobs.
Roberts pursued the route because she was crazy about sports.
She grew up in Mississippi, the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman. She passed up a basketball scholarship offer from Louisiana State, preferring the more intimate setting of Southeastern Louisiana. After a standout basketball career, she graduated cum laude and followed the path of her sister, Sally-Ann, who worked as an anchor at a TV station in New Orleans.
In 1983, she landed a job as a sports anchor and reporter in Hattiesburg, Miss., making $5.50 an hour. She was giddy.
No one wanted a woman sports broadcaster in the deep South but news was a four-letter word to me,” she said. “I was just so passionate about sports.”
A year later, she took a job in Biloxi and two years after that in Nashville. She was grateful for the opportunities but admits she tired of the hearing station managers say they were “taking a chance” on her.
“Taking a chance? Really?” she said laughing. “I graduated with honors. I was an athlete. C’mon.”
She also was a woman. An African-American one. Doors weren’t exactly flying open in the sports broadcasting world.
While in Nashville, ESPN courted her. A rumor circulated that a rival Nashville station had sent tape of her work to Bristol to get the talented sportscaster out of the market.
ESPN was just seven years old and still figuring out its identity. Roberts wasn’t sold and said no. It came back three years later with better ideas and she made the jump.
That was good news for all of us. It gave her a bigger stage and helped a skeptical audience warm up to the idea of female sports journalists.
Viewers liked her. She was knowledgeable. Prepared.
“People can sniff out an imposter,” she said.
Roberts never was. That’s why she lasted 15 years with the same company in a business that rarely delivers employee longevity. When ABC News and “Good Morning America” came calling, she said, no, several times.
“I love sports,” she said. “It’s part of my DNA.”
Only when close friend and former tennis great Billie Jean King delivered a “Moonstruck”-like “snap out of it'” moment and pushed her toward the bigger stage did she go.
She made the most of it and was promoted from “Good Morning America” reporter to anchor.
To read the rest of the story visit AZCentral where it was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Nick Wilson: Deshaun Watson Press Conference ‘Insulting’ To Local Media
“You — neither Deshaun, his lawyers, or anybody involved in this — get to dictate what those reporters get to say, ask, or think.”
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson met with the media for the first time yesterday since being reinstated by the NFL after the league ruled he was guilty of violating the Personal Conduct Policy due to improper sexual advances towards more than two dozen massage therapists. 92.3 The Fan afternoon host Nick Wilson called Watson’s press conference “trash” and “insulting” to local media.
Watson told reporters he would only answer football related questions from the assembled media members, which Wilson took issue with.
“You can’t bury this story simply by saying ‘I won’t talk about it’,” Wilson said. “It is insulting to the media who covers this team. This is not about Nick Wilson, I promise. This is about the beat reporters who cover this team. It is insulting — intentionally or not — to say ‘You know what, guys? I love y’all, but I’m going to dictate what you ask me’.
“You don’t do that. You dictate when you speak, your opening statement, or how you respond. You — neither Deshaun, his lawyers, or anybody involved in this — get to dictate what those reporters — who work very hard day in, day out covering this organization, covering Deshaun Watson, covering this town — get to say, ask, or think. That was trash.”
Co-host Dustin Fox added the whole job of the media is to bring information to fans, and Watson wouldn’t allow reporters to do that Thursday, and may never do that.
Gregg Giannotti: Biggest Issue With Craig Carton, Jon Jastremski Feud Is “Mole” At WFAN
“The thing that bothers me the most about this is the leak from within the building. Someone here is sending this audio out to a former listener…to cause problems.”
A feud has sprung up between WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton and former WFAN host John Jastremski. Boomer & Gio discussed the spat on Friday morning’s show, with Gregg Giannotti being troubled by a revelation.
During his New York New York podcast, a voicemail left for Jastremski asked about Carton’s comments, but the caller said a WFAN employee sent him the clip of Carton’s criticism.
“So that means we have a mole,” Boomer Esiason said.
“That right there is a problem,” Gregg Giannotti added. “‘We both have a mutual friend that still works over there’ and that person shared a link of Craig talking about JJ (Jastremski). So, clearly, that person is on JJ’s side and they’re still working here. That’s a mole! That’s someone going against the team! And I think know who that is!”
Esiason then asked if he knew the person, to which Giannotti said he did. He then asked if he would be upset by who it was, which Giannotti affirmed as well.
The show then played the final portion of Jastremski’s rant, which included him saying to Carton “I’m not listening to a crook. So you know what? Go take a f—ing hike.”
“Jesus!” Esiason exclaimed. “Good for JJ, though. Standing up for himself.”
“I like both of these guys. I do. I got respect for both of them,” said Giannotti. “Everybody doesn’t have to go to the jail, crook thing with Craig every single time. Do they? It’s low-hanging fruit. Everybody goes there. There’s no way he can defend himself in that way because everybody saying ‘You went to jail’ didn’t go to jail, and it’s not apples and oranges. But the business stuff is apples-to-apples.
“So when I hear that, I’m just like ‘Ok, you went there. Be a little more creative than that’. As far as I listen to legend things, please, nobody has given me worse advice in my life than Mike Francesa did. Nobody. I would still be out in the newsroom cutting Islander highlights if I listened to that guy. And the only reason why Mike liked JJ was because he didn’t feel he was a threat. The only people Mike likes is the people he feels non-threatened by. And that’s where that comes from.”
After concluding Jastremski’s rant was a “little over the top”, Giannotti then turned his attention to the “mole” inside the station.
“The thing that bothers me the most about this is the leak from within the building. Someone here is sending this audio out to a former listener…to cause problems. That — to me — is an issue. The guy on the voicemail said ‘We may or may not have a mutual friend that still works at the radio station’ and this guy just slammed the radio station. And he’s friends with the guy who slammed the radio station and then slammed Craig and this guy’s on their side?! And this guy that works here is on their side?! That to me is a major, major problem.”
Dan Dakich: Craig Carton is ‘The Way Talk Radio Should Be’
“If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”
Craig Carton has prided himself on being one of those hosts who tells it like it is, especially when talking about New York’s pro sports teams.
That willingness to call a spade a spade and levy criticism on teams like the Jets and Giants, especially when things are not going well on the field, is something Dan Dakich has always seen as a recipe for success in the industry.
Interviewing Carton on Thursday on his Outkick show Don’t @ Me, Dakich praised the WFAN afternoon host for essentially creating a blueprint for how sports talk should be done.
“In Indianapolis I’m the bad guy right, because I say look the Colts stink, this regime is 46-49-1 – why are you telling me the GM is the best in the country – why are you telling me Frank Reich can really coach?” Dakich said. “New York’s different, though, right? I mean, New York they expect you to say look if you ain’t any good then you ain’t any good. Yu don’t sugarcoat nothing, and I think that’s the way talk radio should be.”
Carton noted that what’s key in how you critique a team or a front office, executive or owner is finding a balance. He said you can’t as a host be the ultimate homer and blow smoke up everyone’s behind.
“You have to be able to be critical when it’s warranted,” Carton said. “If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”
Carton pointed out that the fan bases in both New York and in Indianapolis are ultimately the same, because at the end of the day it’s all about making sure you have competent people calling the right shots. He added that the organizations are the same too because of how sensitive they can be to criticism, which he said if they don’t like it, “too bad.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.