Women in sports journalism have had a long journey to gain proper respect amongst their counterparts. Despite facing numerous challenges that females have historically face in this field especially as an African American woman, there are still successful examples. Espn Analyst Anderson, is one of such breaking through in a male-dominated Industry. We spoke to Anderson about her career in journalism and achieving her goals.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how was your upbringing?
I was born in the Nation’s capital. I was raised by my mother and father. I came up in a household where they enjoyed sports a lot. I was always very athletic. I was the fastest girl in my elementary and high school. I feel like that played a part in my mentality and also being an only kid for a while too. I was someone who was very active, was a girl scout, did ballet, ran track, and did a little bit of basketball and soccer. I feel like those types of activities and my environment, combined with a trait of kind of being a natural born leader just shaped my upbringing and mentality moving forward.
Who were your early influences in journalism?
Well first and foremost I use to be the announcer for the basketball games at my high school at a time when I wasn’t able to run track. I was able to experience the communication field through that role especially when adding my own personality in my voice for the play-by-play. In addition to that, I was involved in the communication arts program in high school, as well as in middle school. I was exposed to different aspects of journalism in print, in television, and creative expression which started to pique my interest. Moreover, we talked a lot about sports and what was written in the Washington Post in my house. That really grew my interest and naturally led to me participating in internships such as ESPN and local television stations in North Carolina and the D.C. greater area; that kind of honed my desire from there.
When did you realize that you could be a great journalist?
Well, I always felt like I had the personality for television and the persona for it. I was always a good student, good researcher, kind of a naturally inquisitive, investigative type of mind. Of course when I had my first job in Oregon, having to be my own photographer, running a teleprompter with a bicycle-looking pedal in a TV station that was basically a converted barn, certainly tested my commitment while making $nothing.99. When I had the courage to leave that job and go work in the DC market for free to get closer to family, and started to break some major stories in my next market, it strengthened my focus. I have learned about the power of building relationships and mastering loyal connections. Sometimes it’s not all about what you know, although that is highly important, but it is also about who know and excelling at people chess.
How does being a former athlete help you connect with athletes?
Well first and foremost, track is a very individual sport and I do feel that you have to have a certain mindset and internal fortitude to even do that type of sport. As a former track athlete at the University North Carolina-Chapel Hill, training five and six days a week, knowing what it’s like to practice for three to four hours a day, and being in the weight room for another hour. I definitely can relate. There are certainly a lot of things to experience within sport’s whether it’s team adversity, or personal adversity. So I’m certainly aware of what athletes go through while trying to compartmentalize, but it’s not always easy, sometimes life just kicks your behind trying to attain your goals. Everything I have been through myself kind of shaped my mentality in terms of my perspective, the questions I ask, and the things I kind of understand. You can only ask and understand to the depth of your own insight and not everyone has the same perspective especially when it comes to life’s troubles. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you also know what you do, you can be routinely aware of those parameters within yourself so you won’t mess up and over reach as much. That will help in creating a higher level of connectivity with the athletes you cover along with being accurate, authentic and trustworthy. So that’s kind of the long way of saying that the way sports socialized me definitely plays apart now in how I go about my job.
Being a black woman in the media, what were some challenges that you faced early on and now working for ESPN?
On one hand, nothing has been given to me just because, I have worked my butt-off and I do believe there has been a respect that has engendered from that. However, anybody who is a spiritual person knows that nothing is greater than God’s power, not a boss, not agent, not a colleague, not a friend. There have certainly been a lot of people who’ve been a part of blessing me on my path, but I have learned through longevity that HE has the final say especially if you do right and giving your best. I have certainly made my share of mistakes and I’m definitely imperfect, but no one can take away how I care about my craft and how I have put in the time. At the same time I have experienced the human condition and the adversity and challenges that come with that, partially coming from being an African-American woman and African-American journalist. There are times when you have to deal with people’s preconceived notions of what you are, what stereotypes and desperate attempts to add negative narratives that are unjust and undeserved but over time I have learned or tried to be wiser about the times that I choose to speak while waiting for my battles to be fought for me. But I am thankful for the discernment to foretell the design of any opposition that I face, I’m humble by the lessons that I have had to learn and I have used my track mentality to not get too down when I’m behind or too hyped when I’m ahead. As this industry advances more into the social and digital media era and personal branding, my focus now is on something that was my mantra at the beginning of my career; “Give yourself your own yes”. We do not have to wait to be greenlit, approved, to be the beneficiary of back door, favors nor being a member of a club of those who get or failed forward. All we have to do is keep being creative and force ourselves to deeply think about the resources we already have and the power we possess within to build from our own hands and edify ourselves while continuing to be major assets and forces at work and in the community.
What advice would you give to up and coming journalists who are trying to get their big break?
Be willing to create opportunities for yourself by sacrificing weekends and getting out there and meeting new people. Connections are gold in this industry. Do not wait for people to create your circumstance, be proactive about your vision. Whether it is by interning, volunteering, working for free (particularly on the earlier path of your career), getting an extra job and reinvesting that money in yourself, connecting with people, going to events where there is a high concentration of resources in your industry; and by being very resourceful of what you have around you. I’m very big about making list. Make a list about what you want to accomplish. Seeing is believing. Once you are honest with yourself about what your true talent and passion, is then you have the magic to go forward. There is a difference between perseverance and self-perception. Be real with your heart. The reality for most of us is that people are not going to pay you $1.5 million dollars for being perky, you’re going to have to earn it like you learn it and cut down on the distractions of everything that wastes your time that doesn’t make you smile. Hopefully one day we will all be in the position to be able to generate business for ourselves with all our resources we collect over time.