UMass ‘Women in Sports Media Symposium’ sheds light on workplace misogyny, sexual violence

  • Bernadette V. McGlade, far right, the Atlantic 10 Commissioner, speaks on a panel about women in sports media with UMass Journalism students, left to right, Sarah Jacobs and Emilie Cowan, Friday, April 13, 2018. UMass Amherst's Journalism department hosts an event titled Women in Sports Journalism Symposium. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • ESPN deputy editor, Cristina Daglas, speaks on a panel at the Women in Sports Symposium hosted by UMass Amherst's Journalism Department, Friday, April 13, 2018 at the Integrative Learning Center. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • ESPN employees, left to right, Cristina Daglas, Christina Kahrl, and Jena Janovy, speak on a panel at the Women in Sports Symposium hosted by UMass Amherst's Journalism Department, Friday, April 13, 2018 at the Integrative Learning Center. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

For the Gazette
Sunday, April 15, 2018

AMHERST — The #MeToo movement was at the forefront of Friday’s “Women in Sports Media Symposium,” as professionals in the industry shared stories of misogyny and sexual violence.

The event at UMass drew an audience of approximately 50 people. Keynote speakers included Keri Potts, ESPN’s senior director of public relations for college sports, and Bernadette V. McGlade, Atlantic 10 commissioner. The symposium also featured a sit-down interview with Adrienne Matt, a UMass alum and content strategist at Intrepid Content, and a panel discussion with editors from ESPN.

Speakers covered an array of topics from how to break into the industry of sports journalism as a female reporter to each professional’s day-to-day routine.

A common idea touched on in the discussions: Reporting on sports leads to reporting on other subjects like law and social justice.

“Sports is not just about sports,” said Cristina Daglas, deputy editor at ESPN.com. “It’s the entry point to all these other issues.”

Matt agreed.

“You get the opportunity to talk about race,” she said. “You get the opportunity to confront rape.”

Daglas spoke on the panel alongside ESPN colleagues Jena Janovy, a senior deputy editor who oversees the domestic digital enterprise unit for ESPN Digital & Print Media, and Christina Kahrl, a national MLB writer and editor for ESPN.com. They elaborated on what it is like to work in a male-dominated workplace, each describing experiences of subtle misogyny in which men had either talked over them or repeated ideas that they had already proposed during a meeting.

Kahrl, who is transgender, recalled how she was asked by a male colleague whether or not she knew how to keep score when reporting on MLB games.

Daglas spoke on the demographics of her own workplace, specifically how she manages a team of 10 male editors and 15-20 writers — only two of whom are women.

“If you look at that ratio, it’s a little off,” said Daglas.

The panelists were asked how the #MeToo movement has affected their work.

Kahrl talked about a story she wrote about a Mets player who was returning to play in the MLB after being suspended for beating his wife. Kahrl said she aimed to pursue the story in a way that did not celebrate the athlete’s return to the field, but instead drew attention to his wrongdoing.

“If we just regurgitate something about the Mets here, it’s not a good job of us doing storytelling,” Kahrl said. “This is an opportunity for us to own a certain responsibility for something that’s important.”

In her keynote, Potts talked both personally and professionally about sexual assault and rape, going in depth into her own experience.

While vacationing in Italy, Potts said, she had to “engage in battle” with a much heavier man who was attempting to rape her in his apartment. Potts was forced by the attacker, a man named Marco, to escape through his patio — falling down balconies and jumping across rooftops to reach safety.

“Ultimately, I went to the U.S. Embassy and pressed charges, and he pled guilty,” Potts said. She noted, though, that Marco served no time in prison.

Potts said her experience propelled her into her current work advocating for victims of sexual violence. Potts launched A Fight Back Woman Inc., where she tells her own story of sexual assault to spread awareness of and combat sexual violence. She has also worked as a victims’ advocate for the Milford Rape Crisis Center in Connecticut and Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. She now volunteers with the Gwinnett Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center in Georgia.

“This work still kills me, and I’ve been doing it for eight years,” she said, noting how she is still personally affected when she hears other victims’ stories.

At ESPN, Potts works to change the narrative and language used in describing sexual violence in reporting. In August, she initiated training for ESPN’s college football on-air talent and production staff — over 300 people — on the language of interpersonal and sexual violence. According to her, the training was so well-received that it became mandatory training for all on-air talent and production staff at ESPN.

However, Potts still sees many outlets constantly using harmful language in their reporting of sexual violence.

Addressing the UMass journalism students in attendance at the symposium, Potts said, “You guys have this responsibility to add accountability and balance.”