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Media Roundup: Women Still Trying To Find A Space In Boston Sports Media

Women are making outstanding strides in Boston sports media, with quality beat reporters filling print journalism's sports pages. What about other facets of sports media - where are the women?

For a city with a more than average amount of female sports fans, Boston is still lacking in representation of women in sports media. Though the newspapers have nourished several high profile female sportswriters over the years, the remainder of the sports media has yet to catch up with the high number of women sports fans in Boston.

If you are a Boston sports fan who still obtains your news from the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, odds are good that you are reading the work of a female sports writer nearly every day. The Globe counts Amalie Benjamin and Shira Springer on their sports feature staff, Shalise Manza Young holding down the Patriots beat, and Nancy Marrapese Burrell jumping in when hockey season starts.

Past Globe sports staff included female sports journalist pioneers Lesley Visser and Jackie MacMullan. Karen Guregian has been a steadfast Patriots writer for the Herald since the 1980s, and what her staff lacks in amount of women, she makes up with pure longevity.

Since the departure of WHDH's Wendi Nix for ESPN and WBZ's Alice Cook, Boston’s broadcast television stations have been without a female sports reporter - until this week, when Fox 25’s new sports anchor, Kristine Leahy (formerly of WEEI and the Boston Celtics) stepped in front of the camera.

Though women are lacking in the affiliates' sports coverage, this is quickly becoming a moot point - those in the industry are predicting the end of the sports segment on news broadcasts, since time allotments in-broadcast are dwindling and producers are handing the sports reading duties over to news anchors.

Where broadcast channels fail, the region’s cable sports channels (Comcast SportsNet New England and NESN) step in. Women are all over the region’s cable sports stations like Dunkin’ Donuts in the vicinity of Government Center.

Among NESN’s most popular staff are Kathryn Tappen (though sports media writer Ken Fang predicts a Tappen move to NHL Network in the future) and Heidi Watney (though Watney has achieved fame through more personal rumor than her actual Fenway reporting.)

But besides those more recognizable names, both stations use very knowledgeable reporters like CSNNE's Jessica Camerato and Mary Paoletti to boost their in-depth content both on air and online.

Boston's sports radio is deplorable in respect to hiring female talent. On both 98.5 The Sports Hub and WEEI, women cease to exist. As I wrote in 2009, 98.5's creation created a giant opportunity for the station to be the forerunner in hiring female talent, and they fell down on the job.

Not only is female on-air talent reduced to fill-in sport update status on both stations, their own online offerings lack female sports journalists. This showing is woefully behind other major markets like Chicago and Minneapolis, where women are midday or drive time hosts. It almost seems to both stations that if the woman can't be seen giving sports news, they aren't valuable.

The newest area of sports media has gone through its ebbs and flows in terms of female representation. Online media and blogging has a strong female presence, but it has been quite small considering how well represented Boston sports fans are in the space.

Female blogs and bloggers have been prevalent in Boston Red Sox coverage for several years, and are increasing drastically in Boston Bruins coverage over the past year. But while women are all over print journalism’s coverage of the New England Patriots, there are very few covering football in the online space, and that’s true of Boston Celtics coverage as well.

Aggregate women’s sports sites in the region have fluctuated over the past few years, with a few "ladies only" sites trying to make a splash but having problems maintaining momentum (for example 2010's Beantown Athletic Supporters, which I was a part of). Other sites have had to switch their focus to fitness and health related topics (like Boston Sports Women), areas where there are many women bloggers in the area.

Do women in Boston want to be in sports media? Yes, more so than in other cities. Given the high population of female sports fans in the area, there should be more women shaping sports reporting. With the growth of online media, more opportunities exist, and that may be the way Boston finally levels the playing field.