Every facet of the sports media ecosystem was in the room.
Seasoned and aspiring media professionals, accomplished athletes, proud parents, team administrators, and more gathered to celebrate how far women have come in sports and to discuss how to maximize opportunities for continued progress.
The first Carmical Symposium on Sports Media, hosted by UGA’s John Huland Carmical Sports Media Institute, was held Feb. 2 to coincide with National Girls and Women in Sports Day. The symposium focused on women in sports to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a law that prohibits gender-based discrimination.
The keynote conversation with UGA women’s basketball coach Joni Taylor and Atlanta Dream president Morgan Shaw Parker, led by Carmical Institute associate director Welch Suggs, highlighted the importance of empowering women in sports.
“We still need to continue to make opportunities available,” Taylor said. “That comes from using our voice. There is progress. I think organizations are better at understanding the strength and power women have.”
The keynote speakers said advocating for change is taxing but necessary.
“If I use my voice, progress is made,” said Parker. “I don’t know if society fully understands how difficult that is.”
A morning panel led by Carmical Institute director Vicki Michaelis featured current athletes, a sports media researcher and a multimedia reporter. A portion of the discussion involved the pros and cons of social and digital media for female athletes and women working in sports media.
With sports on social and digital media, the audience can provide direct feedback to those who decide what sports are broadcast, according to Andrew Billings, journalism professor at the University of Alabama.
“Everything is going streaming,” said Billings. “If you are a fan of women’s sports, you get to have your voice heard as much as anyone.
Jaiden Fields plays on the UGA softball team and is a student in the Carmical Institute’s undergraduate Sports Media Certificate program. She has witnessed the growth in fan support, but sees opportunity for more.
“Our games in the Women’s College World Series had a ten percent increase in viewers last year,” Fields said. “That was at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. Imagine what that could be in prime time.”
Another topic of the panel focused on how athletes and reporters often receive targeted comments online and on social media based on gender.
“”When you look at women in sports, or really women everywhere, there are comments about how they look or what they are wearing,” said Kendell Williams (AB ‘17) a two-time Olympic heptathlete who is pursuing her Master’s degree in public relations. “It should be about the athletic success.”
“I produce content for NCAA, but I don’t work for the NCAA,” said Michella Chester, digital reporter for Turner Sports and an alumna of the sports media program. “I’m the face on the internet that people message when they aren’t happy with something.”
The Carmical Symposium on Sports Media is a biennial event hosted by the John Huland Carmical Sports Media Institute at the University of Georgia. It is designed to prompt critical discussions about how sports media intersects with society.
You can view the full keynote conversation here: