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

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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