Since Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ sexist off-air comments about female referee Sian Massey the media has been under constant scrutiny and subject boards such as the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) should be doing more to encourage potential sports writers, particularly women, to gain a sports journalism qualification.
As a journalist who wants to report on horse racing, I find it disheartening to see that the NCTJ do not do enough for potential sports writers like myself who believe football is a male-dominated sport and still has issues surrounding sexism.
Fifty per cent of the overall mark in the NCTJ sports journalism exam is given to reports written about a football match, not one seen in live play, but one that has been televised before giving knowledgeable football writers, particularly men, a greater advantage.
Jacqui Oatley battled criticism when she was first announced as BBC Match of the Day’s first female commentator and she expressed her views on the matter: “I think that if the exam has put people off then that’s wrong, we need to be encouraging females. If you genuinely have women who are really into sport but football’s not really their thing I think it’s wrong if they’re discouraged from taking the course.”
Jacqui said that she didn’t agree with the exam having 50 per cent of the marks on a football report but she understood why the NCTJ structures it that way as it is the dominant sport of the country.
She added that if someone wants to write about other sports rather than football, there should be no reason for the NCTJ to provide footage of different sports to report on.
Laura Robson, US Open 2011, taken by AshMarshall on August 24, 2011 in Corona, New York, NY, US, using a Nikon D3000. (Image taken from Flickr)
As an aspiring sports journalist, I have no interest in football and therefore encourage NCTJ to provide more coverage of other sports, so that potential sports journalists who dislike football are given a greater chance of gaining a sports writing qualification. Jacqui agreed with this idea.
I complained to the NCTJ board directly about the high emphasis the syllabus and exam place on football, claiming that it is lazy and unfair.
The NCTJ Chief Examiner for Sports Journalism gave the following feedback to my complaint: “To work in any sports department, you need to have a basic knowledge of football. We work in multimedia newsrooms which require the ultimate flexibility. That is the foundation of any sports journalist.”
When asked if candidates of the exam could be given a choice of sports to report on, such as tennis or hockey, as they get equal coverage and therefore equally appealing to both men and women. The Chief Examiner said: “We have looked at other options; swimming, tennis, speedway, athletics, but for the part A exam [worth 50 per cent], we require a sport which runs for 90 minutes or so, and which lends itself to a two-part report.”
There are other sports that have the duration of around 90 minutes and even though football may be the dominant sport in this country, it should not dominate the NCTJ sports journalism syllabus and exam.
As Jacqui said, it seems strange that 50 per cent of the marks go on a football related question when that is not what everyone wants to do.
This article will be published in Broadcast Magazine. Many thanks to Jacqui for allowing me to give an interview.
Link to Broadcast magazine: http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/comment/in-my-view/women-sports-reporters-need-a-level-playing-field/5041550.article?blocktitle=IN-MY-VIEW&contentID=1091
Hold the Front Page: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2012/news/nctj-in-sexism-row-over-football-dominated-exam/