BSP's Special Series of The Rise of The Female in Sports Media
“I’ve been a sports fan for as long as I can remember – my dad and both of my brothers are sports fans and so it was only natural for me,” stated Kristen Balboni, researcher from Mike and Mike in the Morning.“Watching sports was something we did together as a family when I was younger, and we still call each other to talk sports when our teams are playing.”
The University of North Carolina alum and journalism major started out as an intern for ESPN, and is now the researcher and one of the youngest female on-air broadcasters. After doing research for the popular sports show, she joins Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on a segment called “Next Question” where fans submit questions via the internet. This is also where the popular hashtag #AskBalbiz was created; referencing a nickname she was given by the producer on her first day on the job.
When asked how it feels to be one of the youngest female sportscasters on television, Balboni modestly said, “I still think of myself primarily as “Mike and Mike’s Researcher” so I haven’t given much thought to being one of the youngest sports broadcasters on TV. However, I do know I’m extremely fortunate to be doing what I’m doing at age 25.”
Not only does Balboni get her day started while most of us are just getting home from the bar, but she spends several hours before the show even starts researching stories that she thinks the audience will find beneficial. Between the hours of 6 and 10 a.m. Balboni says, “I’m looking up information for the guys, collaborating with producers on show content and guest questions, and running in and out of the studio to do my on-air appearances.” It might sound hectic, but this woman loves her job. “We have a blast every day – we laugh, we talk, we joke, and we try to produce the best content possible.”
The broadcasting world today is all about the supply and demand of information and getting it out to the public in the fastest way possible, and so social media sites like Twitter are now the first place you go to get the scoop. Just #AskBalbiz, “I believe social media (particularly Twitter) has irrevocably changed the journalism industry in both a good way and a bad way. The instantaneousness of Twitter is awesome. We don’t have to wait for anything anymore. Another positive of Twitter is that it gives fans an incredible strong voice. Sports figures, celebrities, and the media aren’t isolated from fans anymore. On Mike and Mike, we’re instantly able to find out if people are into the topics we’re discussing on the show and we can adjust accordingly,” Balboni explains. “Also, a lot of times, fans tweet us about a certain topic we’re discussing and make great points that we hadn’t previously considered. I love that.”
Balboni, with almost 35,000 followers, goes on to further explain the snags of social media as well. “..There are definite drawbacks to social media. One drawback is rampant inaccuracy – in the rush to break a story, people rely on rumors when they should rely on facts and untrue stories spread like wildfire. I think the other big problem is when people develop “Twitter muscles” and tweet hurtful and hateful comments at others for no reason… I would like to see more compassion on social media,”
In regards to women in the media, Balboni explains that she has the opportunity s to interact with some of the best female sport casters in the industry. That being said, there is one female sportscaster in particular that she truly admires. “Personally, I think Jemele Hill is awesome! She has her own TV show, she hosts a great podcast, she is a writer, and somehow she finds time to teach classes at UCF!” she gushes. “She is always informative, thought-provoking, honest and she never shies away from giving her opinion, even when it’s not the popular opinion. Plus, she’s a really nice person,” Balboni continues. It’s so great when women in the same industry can cheer each other on and build each other up.
With a strong, positive, female role model in her life, as well as the support from Mike and Mike, Balboni has grown confidence early in her career, which is imperative to be successful in the industry. Although she may be young, Balboni offers sound advice to women who want to break into the sports media industry. “Starting out, I did internships (several of which didn’t pay anything) in order to build my resume – those experiences helped me secure an internship and eventually a job at ESPN,” Balboni explains. “Once I started doing on-air appearances, I asked (and continue to ask) for feedback on my appearances. It’s not always fun to get critiqued, but it is incredibly beneficial – whether you want to be on-air or behind the scenes, knowing where you stand and how you can improve can only benefit you.”
Women in the world of sportscasting have come a long way since pioneers such as Jane Chastain, Jeannie Morris and Phyllis George. Do you think that these prejudices still exist for women in the sports journalism world today? Well if they exist, , Balboni isn’t taking notice.
“I can’t really say if I’ve been given more or less opportunities because of my gender, because I’m not as familiar with other people’s experiences as I am my own,” Balboni explained. “I think there are inherent advantages and disadvantages to being a female in this industry, but I hope that I’m judged on my performance and what I bring to the table.”