Christine Brennan is an award-winning sports writer for USA Today and a commentator for various news outlets, including: ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHour, and National Public Radio.
She’s a renowned national public speaker and has covered the past 16 Olympic Games. Her book, Inside Edge, was a 1996 national best-seller and she has authored several others including Best Seat in the House.
Brennan became a groundbreaking journalist when she began her career at the Miami Herald in 1981 as their first woman sports writer. And again as the first woman to cover Washington’s NFL team as writer for the Washington Post in 1985.
When discussing her experiences in the early 1980s, Brennan looks back with fondness for what she has accomplished,
I really don’t think of any barriers or problems when I look back. It was 1981 and the locker room issue hadn’t been resolved…In 1982 and 1983 I was covering the Gators for the Miami Herald, and I wasn’t allowed in the locker room initially.
Sometimes the coach would bring me in to the locker room for interviews and sometimes he brought players to me while I waited outside. Eventually, all the other sportswriters were waiting outside with me to get the best interviews. History and culture was changing at that time. I was fortunate to have women come before me and open doors that I walked through…”
Brennan makes it clear that she never felt that being a woman created more barriers for her as a sportswriter,
I want to be honest, if I had been a white male, I wouldn’t have been hired. Being a woman was the initial reason I was hired. The Herald had never had a full-time woman sportswriter. Let’s be honest, it was an advantage being a woman.”
She has seen changes for women working in the sport industry over the span of her career,
Unfortunately what’s happened since Title IX crested is that there are more and more women trying to get jobs in the sports industry, but there aren’t enough jobs available. Newspapers and news organizations still aren’t hiring since the recession in 2008. One of the issues in sports is to get more women in the business…Advancement and opportunities in other facets of the workplace are the same conversations happening with sports media, it’s all the same kind of issue…
2016 is the biggest year for women working in sports. Becky Hammon, Ronda Rousey, the Women’s National soccer team, Serena Williams, and women were the dominant athletes in the 2012 Olympics and they will be again in 2016. I think its a watershed moment. Its fantastic and we should get used to it.”
There is one more obstacle to overcome,
Just to get more women. It’s going to be hard, because newspapers are still cutting staff. Just to get 30-40 percent of women on staff…Getting more women in to leadership and getting more women in general working in sport departments…
One of the reasons I first started working with the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) was because I wanted to give back. I knew I was fortunate. I had a great education, a great first job, and Paul Anger was a great first editor. I knew I had been given an opportunity and to who much is given, much is expected.”
Brennan has one last piece of advice for young women beginning their careers in sports,
Work harder than everyone else. Be a perfectionist. Double check. Triple check. You can’t afford to make a mistake. Mistakes can’t be acceptable in your brain.
Make that extra phone call. Do that extra research. Thank people…the secret to success is no secret. Hard work and dedication to the task, being a perfectionist, being unwavering in a search for the truth, being curious.”
The following is a short video of Brennan speaking on the future of journalism: