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Northwestern to Host Panel on Women In Sports Media

"Beyond the Box Score" series examines state of sports journalism for women

“The first time I saw a woman's byline on a sports story was in The Daily Northwestern early in my freshman year. From that moment on, I knew that a career in sports journalism was possible for me, too.” – Christine Brennan, sports journalist and Medill alumna

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Decades after federal legislation increased opportunities for female athletes, rising numbers of women are entering sports journalism, making a mark in a world once traditionally dominated by men.

But obstacles remain. The reality facing women working as sports journalists will be the focus of “The Female Voice in Sports Media,” the latest installment of Northwestern University’s “Beyond the Box Score” lecture series, a collaboration between the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the department of athletics.

Moderated by Northwestern alumna and award-winning sportswriter Christine Brennan, a columnist for USA Today, the event takes place at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the McCormick Foundation Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus.

Brennan will be joined by a high-powered panel including CNN’s Rachel Nichols, Fox Sports’ Pam Oliver and ESPN’s Cari Champion and Cassidy Hubbarth. In addition to Brennan, Nichols and Hubbarth are also Northwestern alums.

The discussion is free and open to the public. The event will be streamed live, and the conversation can be followed on Twitter using the hashtag #Medillsports.

“This panel shows another generation of young women at Northwestern -- and young men too -- what's possible for them as they follow their dreams,” Brennan said.

The setting is appropriate given that Northwestern has “always been a leader of opportunities for women in sports -- on the field and in the press box,” said Brennan, who, earlier in her career was the first female sports journalist at The Miami Herald and the first woman to cover the National Football League for the Washington Post.

“The first time I saw a woman's byline on a sports story was in The Daily Northwestern early in my freshman year,” she said. “From that moment on, I knew that a career in sports journalism was possible for me, too.”

The participants will address the state of sports journalism today, the advantages and obstacles women face in the media and the perceptions they must overcome.

Though Title IX legislation for athletes was passed more than 40 years ago, the fight for equality and access to the press box and locker room is far from over.

To coincide with the event, Medill students profiled women working in sports media, including many Northwestern alumni. The stories, hosted in an online collection on Medium, launched in January and will continue to be published leading up to and following the event. 

This year’s “Beyond the Box Score” event is co-sponsored by the Northwestern Women’s Center and One Book One Northwestern.

Panelists include:

Moderator Christine Brennan is an award-winning national sports columnist for USA Today a commentator for ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHour and National Public Radio, a best-selling author and nationally-known speaker. Twice named one of the country’s top 10 sports columnists by the Associated Press Sports Editors, she has covered the last 16 summer and winter Olympic Games.

Rachel Nichols serves as the sole sports anchor at CNN, where she contributes exclusive reporting, commentary and analysis on the biggest sports stories across the network. Prior to joining CNN and Turner Sports in Jan. 2013, Nichols spent nine years at ESPN, where she was a correspondent for “SportsCenter,” “NFL Countdown,” “NBA Countdown” and “E:60.”

Pam Oliver joined the “NFL on FOX” team in 1995. She contributes feature stories and sideline reports for the “NFL on FOX,” “FOX NFL SUNDAY” and “FOXSports1.” She also contributes to Turner Sports’ coverage of the NBA playoffs. Before working at FOX, she was a reporter at ESPN. Oliver graduated from Florida A&M University.

Cari Champion is the host of ESPN2’s "First Take," starring featured commentators Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. In October she debuted as a correspondent for “E:60,” profiling Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Before she joined ESPN in 2012, Champion worked on air at the “Tennis Channel.” She graduated from UCLA.

Cassidy Hubbarth is an anchor on ESPN’s SportsCenter and hosts “NBA Tonight” on ESPN2. She joined ESPN in 2010 as a studio anchor and host for college football and basketball on ESPN3. Prior to ESPN, Hubbarth was a host and reporter at the Big Ten Network and Fox Sports South.


Medill’s "Beyond the Box Score" lecture series was established in 2011 and is co-created by Northwestern Athletics. The annual event features discussions about the world of sports and sports journalism. Previous lectures have touched on the coverage of college athletics, storytelling in sports and race in sports and sports journalism. Past panelists include distinguished notable sports journalists such as George Dohrmann, LZ Granderson, Jeremy Schaap, Kevin Blackistone, Stewart Mandel and Doug Collins.


This year’s "Beyond the Box Score" lecture is partner programming with One Book One Northwestern and its 2014–15 selection “Whistling Vivaldi.” The book, written by Claude Steele and published in 2010, explores the ways stereotypes can undermine the performance of the people they target.

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