April 14, 2024

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | Sports researcher Beatrice Go shares best practices for covering women’s sports

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | Sports researcher Beatrice Go shares best practices for covering women’s sports
Art by Royce Nicdao

Beatrice Go has always loved sports—once a competitive swimmer, she got her start as a journalist when she became the sports editor of Ateneo De Manila University’s campus newspaper. This was followed by five years of working full-time at a major sports outlet in the Philippines. Now a freelance sports journalist and researcher, Go has dedicated her career to promoting gender equity in sports and sharing best practices to help the next generation of journalists and content creators.

As a former athlete herself, Go brings a unique perspective to her work and is passionate about empowering female athletes and promoting their stories in the media. She recently worked with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation-International Development and its Women in News and Sports initiative to identify best practices in covering women’s sports.

Do you want to become a sports content creator, podcaster, or sports journalist? Check out Go’s findings and tips for reporting on women’s sports without gender bias.

1. Focus on the athletes' journey in the sport with context and without the sexualization and infantilization of female athletes and teams

Go’s research finds that female athletes have often been subjected to sexualization and infantilization in the media—with focus being placed on their appearance, their relationship status, or their personal lives. Deep analytics and detailed breakdowns of athletes’ performances are more available in men’s sports than they are in women’s sports.

“Under a male-dominated leadership, which was prevalent in the past, decisions would be made to serve a male audience without considering the diversity of the market. Hence, there would be more focus on the physical attributes of women athletes rather than their athletic performance,” she shares.

However, Go asserts: “Women are also sources of strength and inspiration in their own fields. With more analytical content and explainers on the female athletes’ performances, we get to celebrate and develop deeper appreciation for women’s sports.”

What’s more impactful to readersand empowering to the athletesis focusing on their contexts as athletes. This includes their backgrounds, training, their skills, and their performance in competitions. By highlighting their accomplishments, you are giving them the recognition they deserve as athletes and not just as objects of desire.

“I encourage the use of gender-neutral terms which can refer to both male and female athletes, like ‘basketball star, netter, volleyball player,’” says Go. “It’s also important to qualify both men’s and women’s sports when producing content (ex. Men’s basketball, Women’s basketball) or use the sport to refer to both the men’s and women’s game. This helps us move away from the assumption that a sport refers to a certain gender, like ‘basketball is for men, volleyball is for women.’”

2. Make content discoverable with a social media-led strategy

“Social media is also a good tool to segment women’s sports content. Many media giants like ESPN have created ESPNW, which caters to the women’s sports audience,” Go says.

And these platforms have proven valuable to these media giants, tapping into a rich community of female athletes, fans of women’s sports (women and men alike), women’s advocates, and more!

By using a social media-led strategy, you can make the content more discoverable and reach a broader audience. This can be done by creating hashtags that are specific to women's sports, collaborating with influencers, and engaging with fans. By doing so, you are not only promoting women's sports but also encouraging more people to support them.

3. Engage female sports content creators to report on women's sports

In a landscape that is still male-dominated, Go feels grateful to have worked under a female sports editor, Jasmine Payo, who helped shape her approach to the profession.

“Under the mentorship of a female sports editor, and working in a company that was founded by women, there was a commitment to covering women’s sports stories and ideas about women in sports were always welcome in the newsroom,” shares Go.

Women journalists and content creators can provide a unique perspective and bring attention to issues that are often overlooked in traditional sports coverage. By having more women involved in sports journalism, we can create a more diverse and inclusive sports media landscapesomething that this generation of media consumers is looking for.

“I’m glad to see that the media landscape in the Philippines is more welcoming of women. We are seeing women working in various areas of sports mediapodcasting, production, broadcast and content creation,” says Go, who says the next step is supporting pathways to leadership and breaking down barriers so that women can access more leadership opportunities.

In conclusion, covering women's sports without gender bias requires a shift in the way we think about sports journalism. By focusing on the athletes' journey in the sport, making content discoverable, and engaging female sports content creators, we can create a sports media landscape that isn’t just inclusive and equitable, but future-proofed as well.

It takes embracing change, and being open to new insights. But hey, it’s about time.