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Working in Sports Journalism as a Latina

Published on 7th June 2018

In TV news, newspapers, and radio, there is an uneven playing field for people of color, specifically female journalists of color.

The lack of racial and gender diversity in the U.S. mainstream media does not resemble the growth of people of color and increasing female population in the United States.

A report from the Women’s Media Center reflects that while people of color are almost 40 percent of Americans, they represent under 17 percent of newsroom staff. And while women make up just over half of the U.S. population, they only made up just 39 percent of newsroom employees.

The disproportionate amount of diversity is obvious. The world of journalism remains a profession still dominated by white men.

According to reports by the annual newsroom diversity survey from the American Society of News Editors, newsrooms on average are nearly 84 percent white, with 52 percent being men.

These statistics may illustrate the issue of racial and gender diversity in news, but what is not portrayed is the challenges that female journalists of color face.

Let’s take journalists covering sports for example, locally and nationally. How many female Latina sports broadcasters can you name?

In a recent Twitter poll, I asked my followers to vote on the number of female sports broadcasters they know and then narrowed it down to how many Latina  female sports broadcasters they could name.

From 33 voters, 70 percent of them could name only one female sports broadcaster, or none. From 26 voters, 85 percent of them could name only one Latina female sports broadcaster, or none.

Sports journalism is known as a difficult field for women to enter and be taken seriously — and it’s not for fault of their talent.

Rebecca Lowe, Hannah Yates, Katie Nolan and Doris Burke were some of the names mentioned in my poll, but there are far more women sports journalists kicking ass in the sports industry who are not properly being recognized.

In Chicago, NBC Sports is home to the only Latina woman sports broadcaster in the city. Siera Santos made her move to the Midwest in 2015 as the White Sox reporter and anchor for Comcast SportsNet Central which later rebranded to NBC Sports Chicago.

Before coming to Chicago, Santos was a sports anchor/reporter for CBS affiliates KCBS/KCAL in Los Angeles. Before that, Santos was a sports journalist at CBS affiliate KWTV in Oklahoma City. But her career in the world of sports journalism did not come easy.

Santos had to get her start as a news anchor because no one would hire her as a sports anchor.

“I sent out my sports reel to so many entry-level jobs and didn’t hear anything. So I put together a separate reel of just news,” said Santos. “After I hadn’t gotten any nibbles on my sports tape, I sent out my news reel and within a week I had three job offers.”

She chose the job offer closest to home and joined NBC affiliate KOAA-TV in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a news reporter/multimedia journalist covering national news stories.

Much like Santos, Samantha Rivera, a 2017 DePaul alumna finds herself in the same boat Santos was at the beginning of her career.

“I knew getting my foot in the door was all I needed to at least get a start in the industry, so I took the best news job I could find,” said Rivera. “I remember a professor once told me that you can't really cover sports if you can't even do news, and in many ways, it's true.”

Rivera is currently the anchor/MMJ for Michigan’s TV6 and FOX U.P. She is one of two Latinas at her TV station. While Rivera covers a little bit of everything, ranging from breaking news to sports and community events, anytime she has a chance, she asks to do stories related to sports and Latinos.

“Sports is still the goal, it’s what makes me happy,” said Rivera. “We don’t have a lot of stories that involve the Latino community because it’s such a small, small group, so I know my bilingualism is that much more important to make sure that if there ever is a language barrier, their voices get heard.”

There is a history of English-language media being insensitive in its coverage of Latino players have received in the past, failing to adequately convey the ideas that these players are trying to express — which has come off as poking fun at their accents.

Much of the issues surround the inability of the Latino players to meaningfully communicate with the press.

In baseball alone, 259 players on Opening Day rosters were born outside of the U.S. So what happens when a white journalist who most likely does not speak Spanish, needs to interview and report on a player who speaks little to no English?

Cat Carcia, another Latina journalist making her way in the sports department, conveys that when a reporter can have conversations with the players in their native languages, the story is better and fans are given content that they otherwise might not have.

Garcia is a freelance baseball writer for WLS, La Vida Baseball, and MLB. She is also covering the 2018 White Sox season for the Sun-Times.

“As we start to notice that these clubhouses are getting more diverse, and [the players’] cultures are becoming more prominent with players like Willson Contreras, or Jose Abreu, it’s very important to have Latina and Latino journalists to match that for the player,” Garcia said.

Will journalism ever become a majority-female industry? A majority Latina women industry? Newsrooms claim to want to improve racial and gender representation but there is no real sense of urgency in their words. In a 2013 article for The Atlantic, Riva Gold wrote, “Fewer minorities are getting the opportunity to work in news, and news organizations are losing their ability to empower, represent, and—especially in cases where language ability is crucial— even to report on minority populations in their communities.”

American newsrooms need to acknowledge the increase in newsroom diversity is necessary to more closely reflect the populations being covered.

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