Women make mark in sports journalism

She was part of the pioneer team at Astro Arena, having spent the past 10 years with the channel and is among the top women broadcasters in the country.

But Edleen Ismail says she is no poster girl. The Ipoh-born stresses she is a true blue sports journalist.

“I admit in the past it was difficult for women to be sports reporters. We were never taken seriously by the fans or the officials,” said Edleen, adding there was a period where what a female sports journalist said was never good enough.

“Times have changed. People now realise it’s not about the face but the substance because we know our sports.”

Women journalists, in general, have been “violated” for years. Some are objectified, hoping it will lure the eyeballs in the men-dominated sports world.

Despite more awareness on fair play and gender equality worldwide, women journalists continue to face unwarranted comments and innuendos.

Last month, hundreds of high-profile Australian women reporters had their images, lifted from social media, uploaded on a forum accompanied by comments such as “it’s about time they changed the camera angle to show some leg”.

The incident saw an uproar among female journalists in the nation as ABC reporter Lily Mayers said “the incident serves as an example of how women are burdened with having to take extra measures just to keep themselves safe.”

Edleen added: “Take my colleague Fina Nasrom for example. She endured many obstacles during her early days. The fans didn’t like the fact that a girl was reporting football and they put her in a pigeon hole.

“But she didn’t let the negative comments affect her and today, she has proven her worth.

“We do see fans and officials now having healthy conversations and discussions with women sports journalists.”

Astro Arena, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has produced a string of women sports reporters, presenters and producers. They include Dayang Zainatul Aqma, Suzana Basri, Yong Wan Jun, Lily Hamzah, and Alice Harun.

The team has since expanded as the sports channel will now feature a one-hour news bulletin daily (7.30pm-8.30pm) starting today.

“We do have many female reporters … it’s no longer about gender but passion.”

Having been in the business for over a decade, Edleen admitted at one stage she was conscious of her age, especially when surrounded by younger female reporters and personalities.

“But today, I care less about the menial things or about what people will say as they will only hold you back.

“In the West, those in their 40s and even 50s, are still presenting news. It’s about giving your best and I’m still able to give my best.”

Yong admitted there was a sort of stereotyping when it comes to women in sports but said she is blessed to be working with peers who respect her for who she is.

“We have a balanced number of male and female reporters and presenters in Arena. I’ve never felt like I’m being paid less or receive less attention because I’m a woman,” said Yong.

“There is this little annoyance when some fans question my credibility. Some will ask ‘are you really a sports fan?’ or ‘do you even know anything about sports?’

“Sports isn’t just for men, it’s for all. It’s my interest. I know it and I love it.”

Suzana, a mother of one, said women tend to face more challenges, especially in front of the camera.

“When I entered the broadcasting world, I knew it would be an uphill task,” said Suzana, whose daughter turns four next month.

“I am a competitive person. I don’t regard myself as pretty or having the physique of a model, but I strive to be presentable and knowledgeable in sports.”

Having worked with several experienced journalists in the newsroom, Suzana said it was always about researching and understanding the subject matter.

“Some people think it’s just about going in front of the camera and reading the teleprompter. There’s more to it. We must know the subject matter well.”

Suzana, who has been working with Arena since 2012, hopes to inspire more women to be part of the sports ecosystem.

“I want to see more women being part of sports, writing about sports, producing news about sports, being in the system. I hope my contribution to the industry will inspire a new generation of young women.”

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