Candace Buckner: It's time for sports journalism to evolve

Candace Buckner: Commentary

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoCandace Buckner

Erin Andrews weaved her way down a congested corridor of cameras and racin' fans, searching for the woman who was about to make history at Daytona 500. Andrews had an assignment last Sunday walking through the pits — a terribly lame one for Fox Sports, but hey, she was working — when rapper 50 Cent moved in for a smooch. The cameras rolled, awkwardness ensued and the viral clip eclipsed six million views.

I don't know what was harder for Andrews, wading through the masses on a quest to interview Danica Patrick or dodging the puckered lips of a male fan on live television.

Andrews, as much popularity as she has attained, still works in an industry where she's viewed as an oddity — or worse, a piece of meat.

According to a recent report from the Women's Media Center, newspaper newsrooms employ only 36.9 percent of women and television's a bit better with a 39.8-percent female workforce. Still, these figures exist in spite of women making up more than half of the U.S. population.

Also, The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida will soon release its 2012 report card on the hiring practices of Associated Press Sports Editors newspapers, and the grade won't look good in red ink. The report finds that men hold 86 percent of the sports reporter jobs at top circulation papers.

These figures are staggering, even troubling. I'm just glad that nobody ever warned me that journalism was a boys-only club.

I grew up wanting to be a sports reporter — that or the next Indiana Jones/Bohemian artist/gold-medal winning Olympic track star. Journalism won out and now, I've got a great job. My 9-to-5 peaks with a 7 p.m. tipoff and my corner office sits atop section 113 inside the Rose Garden Arena.

On the Trail Blazers' beat, I can count two other regular female reporters, both very capable and intelligent. Still, I notice that we're in the minority.

So whenever I pose a stupid question to Blazer coach Terry Stotts, I secretly fear that I'll have to stand in front of the sisterhood and answer for my sins.

Not only that, I've got the double whammy — an African-American female in the sports journalism world.

I don't always get there, but every morning when I wake up, my goal is to be excellent. Not just OK, but excellent, because I want my sources to respect the next person who comes along and looks like me.

Now, if we can only get other rare creatures like me in this industry.

We need diversity in our newspapers and broadcasts the way that Blazer starters need fewer minutes. With varied voices in the landscape, more angles will be pursued. Different perspectives will be presented. This enriches us all and you don't have to be a news junkie to demand a better product like this from your media.

And don't think I'm simply caught up on girl-power. When I speak of diversity I'm talking about writers and reporters who hail from different 'hoods and view my world just as differently as I view theirs. Inside the Blazers' locker room, a cub reporter often speaks Spanish with Victor Claver and kicks butt with information that only he can get from the forward from Valencia, Spain.

We shouldn't have to look alike or even speak the same language to work as sports reporters. Neither should some of us have to sidestep inappropriate contact on our jobs the way Andrews had to last weekend.

Erin Andrews handled it like professional. If she wanted, she could add a doozy of a post to the Tumblr, "Said to Lady Journos," which chronicles the sexist stuff directed at female journalists.

I've checked out the site filled with anonymous submissions. The quotes read like lines from a rejected "Mad Men" script — simultaneously disturbing and hilarious in a do-people-still-talk-like-that kind of way. Although some knuckle walkers still exist, it's time for sports journalism to evolve.

Candace Buckner covers the Trail Blazers for The Columbian. She can be reached at 360-735-4528 or email at candace.buckner@columbian.com. Her Twitter handle is @blazerbanter.