Falling In Love With Sports Journalism, One Black Female At A Time

Et cetera, The Fam — By on February 28, 2013 at 3:00 am

andrea and jemele

By Andrea Masenda / @andreamas05

During the summer of 2010 while doing an internship through the Institute on Political Journalism in D.C., I was afforded the opportunity to attend a taping of ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption” and “Around The Horn.” While sitting in the control room with three other students in my program, in walked Tony Reali himself, donned in a sports jacket, basketball shorts and bright orange high top Reeboks exclaiming, “You guys want to go on a tour?”

To me, it was more than just a tour. It was a career-path changing ordeal. I had entered the epicenter for some of the most talented, entertaining individuals from around the world. I experienced a world where people like Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser talked Chicago Cubs and New York Jets in sneakers and suits and ties, where LeBron’s then-recent decision to “take his talents” to Miami was the topic of every conversation. I had entered a world that I knew I wanted to be a part of one day, and on that day I knew I wouldn’t stop until I got there.

What I didn’t know was that the road to sports media would be anything but easy and everything less than conventional. Based solely on the numbers, I believe it is pretty safe to say that sports journalism is a far cry from being a booming industry for African-American women. Jemele Hill, however, never let that slow her down.

When I found out that Hill would be visiting TCU’s campus on Tuesday night for The Emerging Role of Women in Sports Journalism program, I knew that I had to be there. You see, with the exception of the Orlando Sentinel’s Shannon Owens, Hill is the only black female sports columnist in the United States and Canada. Owens and Hill — that’s it.

Hill took the stage for the panel with several other outstanding females from across the ESPN spectrum including Lori Higginbotham, Jena Janovy, Michele Steele and Jane McManus. A room full of women, all who are inspiring, and all who know what they are talking about. It was a true blessing to be in the company of such talented women in the business, and I was proud of my school for putting together such an empowering panel.

After the discussion, I really wanted a chance to speak with Hill. I believe my very first sentence sounded something like …

“The only black female … sports journalist … in America … and Canada?”

She nodded as if even she was shocked by the statistic. I spoke with her for a few minutes about our similarities, about how I’d experienced walking into one press box after another and being the only person that looked like me, a sentiment that we both shared.

What I learned Tuesday night is that what sets Hill apart is her resistance to the feeling like she is not exactly where she belongs. Hill started the night by telling the crowd that she never felt that her dreams were out of reach. She spoke on receiving “hate mail” from people who didn’t like her opinions or who didn’t think she knew her stuff, but she countered that by voicing how much she really didn’t care.

She talked about the importance of networking, never slowing down the grind, not being afraid to start small in order to do big things. She spoke about how no matter what this ever-evolving industry becomes, being a reliable, accurate, hardworking journalist will always be in high demand.

Hill exudes the kind of confidence and tolerance that is absolutely crucial and fundamentally exemplary as to why she is able to do what very few others can. Hill is paving the way for not only me, but for an entire demographic of young girls who hope to find success in a male-dominated field. Yet, she remains personable and friendly while being genuinely invested in seeing her predecessors succeed.

I truly cannot say that I have the slightest idea of how my future will turn out, and I cannot even say that I want to know. What I do know is that wherever it may be, I will remember all that Hill said that day on TCU’s campus. I’ll take on the future by tuning out the noise, working hard and being reliable. Most importantly, I’ll take on the adventure knowing that I belong there.

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    8 Comments

  • I think it’s wonderful that you’re following this path and that you find inspiration in Jemele. Heed her words for sure … but please do me a favor and don’t try to be like her.

    I know many people here love Hill, but the reason I can’t stand her is for this fact: “being a reliable, accurate, hardworking journalist will always be in high demand.”

    I absolutely agree with her, I just don’t particularly think she does that much anymore, which happens to a lot of folks at ESPN. Probably doesn’t help that I typically disagree with what she says, but I do to a lot of people as well.

    Anyway, great piece, and definitely looking forward to seeing your rise. There are plenty of great women in sports … just not enough. I was appalled by that statistic as well. Follow in those footsteps of the trailblazers, people like Lisa Salters, Doris Burke, Sally Jenkins, Jackie MacMullan, Robin Roberts.

    • DB says:

      With the exception of maybe Jackie MacMullan, none of those women that you listed are considered “talking heads”. Are there any talking heads (male or female) that you are a fan of? I am not trying to criticize your dislike of Jemele Hill, I am just curious.

      • I honestly don’t really enjoy the “talking heads” that just go on to argue. I do like PTI, but that’s because Tony & Wilbon have such great banter and kind of paved the way for that thing. But I honestly am not a fan of Hill’s writing either, to be honest.

        I’m not a fan of sports talk radio, and I feel like a lot of the shows are just sports talk radio on TV. But my dislike of Jemele’s work — I should make that distinction, I don’t “hate” Jemele Hill (I don’t know her), I do dislike her work — is based purely on the fact I don’t think it’s very good or very informed for the most part.

  • great article and I wish you all the success in your journey…

  • Kenny says:

    Events like this can have such a profound impact on one’s life and serves as even more fuel to get to where you’re heading and to make your mark. The entire experience from Tuesday night makes me smile. This is one more step on your road to greatness.

  • Mtrible says:

    Andrea, keep up the good work and you will ultimately succeed to the level you desire. As long as you have the drive – it sounds like you do – all will work out. I expect you to surpass Kenny on the Masenda hall of fame list.

  • Very well done piece. I can’t emphasize enough Jemele’s point to network. Writers need help. Luckily for you, you have several here who would gladly provide help along the way. With the talent you’ve showcased here, I’m not sure you’ll need much of it.

  • J. Tinsley says:

    Profound.

    That’s about the best way to describe this piece. It was awesome to read and I’m sure if/when Jemele read this, she will be touched by these words. Truly well-thought out, and wonderful piece. Best of luck to you on your journey. Leave the door open for us.

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