Journalist On Challenges Facing Female Sports Reporters

Melissa Block talks with veteran sports journalist Andrea Kremer about being a sideline reporter and the culture of sexism in sports broadcasting.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This week, ESPN fired announcer Ron Franklin over comments he made to sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards off the air. He first called her sweet baby. And when she objected to that, he followed with an obscenity. Franklin issued an apology, but it still caused him his job. This adds to a long list of cases when women sports reporters who had to contend with sexist, demeaning or offensive remarks.

Veteran sports reporter Andrea Kremer joins me to talk about the climate for women journalists in sports. She's a sideline reporter with NBC's "Sunday Night Football," and she started her TV career at ESPN back in 1989 as the network's first female correspondent. Andrea, welcome to the program.

Ms. ANDREA KREMER (Sideline Reporter, "Sunday Night Football"): Thanks, Melissa, great to chat with you.

BLOCK: Does this incident to you seem to be a reflection on a bigger issue of how women sports reporters are treated?

Ms. KREMER: Alas, yes. It just seems that every time one of these issues arises, the questions become: Why are women in sports at all? Why are they delivering our sports news? Which is to me, it's passe. I'm tired of hearing about this.

You know, women have earned their positions. I've always maintained there's not a sports gene that only men possess, and it doesn't always have to be about why they are there. It should be, in my opinion, about what do they contribute to a telecast or to a broadcast.

BLOCK: Have you heard this over the years, Andrea, that you can't possibly know the game as a woman if you haven't played it?

Ms. KREMER: You hear it all the time. But believe me, there are plenty of male commentators who have never played the game, as well. As far as I'm concerned, you can learn about sports. I mean, when I was a child, God bless my parents. They didn't think it was funny for this little blonde to love football.

They were buying me books. They were supporting my interest. And believe me, Melissa, I hear this all the time. Oh, did you have brothers? Is that why you like sports? No, I like sports because I just have loved it my whole life. But no, it's not something that's just endemic to men. Women can love it and be knowledgeable about it, just as men can.

BLOCK: Do you think there's a particular hurdle for women who are sideline reporters, that they have to justify their presence in a way that male sideline reporters would not be questioned?

Ms. KREMER: Well, not necessarily a gender issue there. I think that the role of the sideline reporter is so misunderstood. I'll tell you this, if people had any idea how difficult the job is inherently - I mean, think about it, you've got 65,000 people screaming. You've got somebody talking in your ear. You've got to say something that's meaningful in about 25 seconds. The limits are amazing.

But you're there to - for your observational skills and to report, and there is reporting that can be done. See, I think that's the key, Melissa, is I think with the role of sideline reporter, the word reporter gets lost.

BLOCK: I think we've all heard, though, inane questions from sideline reporters, both men and women. And I wonder, when you hear those questions coming specifically from a woman reporter, do you kind of wince and say, boy, that's just going to reflect badly on all of us, make my job even harder?

Ms. KREMER: I think you just hit it right. And that's why, you know, when I talk to women, particularly those who are breaking into the business, I emphasize that. That the work of one reflects on the work of all.

And when it comes to - I know that halftime interviews in particular get assailed. But the bottom line is this, the more specific a question you ask, the better a response you're going to elicit.

And look, your 10th-degree fallback should always be: What adjustments do you need to make, coach? It's not a compelling question, but if you give something specific, you know, for the most part you're going to get something usable that you want to say on air.

BLOCK: What do you think it would take to have more women in the booth or in the studio? There are some now, but mostly women are on the sidelines.

Ms. KREMER: Well, I think that one of the big issues is getting more women in management. But I also believe that women should be hired and should be promoted based on ability.

You need to work from the ground up. You need to pay your dues, and you need to earn those stripes. I mean, I would not be in favor of just throwing a woman in the booth if she had never done it before. And I think that that's something that's really important to keep in mind.

BLOCK: Andrea Kremer is sideline reporter with NBC's "Sunday Night Football." Andrea, thanks very much.

Ms. KREMER: It's a pleasure, Melissa. Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of music)

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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