NU professor shares experience as a woman in sports media


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Medill Prof. Melissa Isaacson speaks to Northwestern students about her career as a female sports journalist. The Q&A event was held in the McCormick Foundation Center and was sponsored by the NU chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media.

Cassidy Jackson, Reporter

Medill Prof. Melissa Isaacson said when she entered sports media, she could “count all the female sports journalists on one hand.”

Isaacson, a former ESPN and Chicago Tribune sports reporter, reflected on the past and the future of women in sports journalism during a talk Tuesday. At the event, held in the McCormick Foundation Center, Isaacson encouraged young women to pursue sports journalism and reflected on the gender-based discrimination she faced during her career.

Isaacson said that although female representation in sports media is still low, there has been progress since she first entered the industry.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Isaacson said. “We still have the job to tell the story.”

About 20 people attended the event, which was organized by NU’s chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media.

Medill freshman Clare Proctor said the event’s smaller size allowed honest conversation. Initially, Proctor thought the Q&A session was being held in the McCormick Foundation Center Forum, but said the classroom setting allowed her to get more out of the event.

“In such a small classroom, I felt like I would actually have a chance to get to know not only what (Isaacson) had to share but what my peers were thinking and understand their questions,” Proctor said. “It was more of a dialogue and very casual, which made it a more comfortable place to be.”

In the intimate setting, attendees listened to Isaacson describe her experience navigating the sports media world as a woman. She said she often felt like she was treated differently because of her gender.

Isaacson said one of the many instances of sexism came when she was interviewing for a position at the Chicago Tribune. She said the interview quickly took a turn when she was asked about her marriage and family plans. Isaacson recalled standing up for herself and saying, “I think that’s illegal for you to ask me.”

Proctor said the talk opened her eyes to the reality women face in sports media. She added that she admired Isaacson’s poise when dealing with discrimination.

“She just (carried) herself with a confidence in an industry that … women get brushed under the rug,” Proctor said. “I’m glad to have heard her stories and her experiences that aren’t always great but are real and help anticipate the future in this industry.”

For women in journalism, Isaacson said the future has never looked brighter. She said women bring something special to the table when it comes to sports journalism.

Medill freshman Danielle Johnson said she left the event feeling less afraid to enter sports media and more empowered to consider sports journalism as a potential career path. She said the opportunities open to women in sports media have multiplied since Isaacson’s time.

“It’s a great time to be a woman in journalism,” Johnson said. “Ladies like Missy Isaacson have paved a pathway for us.”

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