GAME ON: Sports media no longer a man’s world

The STAR's Rajes Paul (right) received the best sportswriter award from Sports and Youth minister Khairy Jamaluddin in KL last year. - BERNAMA

WHEN I became a sports journalist 18 years ago, a few male colleague took a bet: that I would leave the job as soon as I got married.

They lost the bet because I’m still here – older and with lots of grey hair, but still pounding away on the keyboard.

Even my girlfriends were sceptical back then. They were worried that I won’t be able to cope in the “male-dominated world”.

Heck! For the longest time I was still getting letters and emails addressed to Mr Rajes Paul. 

As hilarious as they may sound, these were some of the things I shared at the recent two-day “Media Workshop On Women And Sport” in Doha. I was one of the panellists at the session on “Why aren’t more women working in sports media?”

The workshop, co-organised by International Olympic Committee (IOC), Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Qatar Olympic Committee, was attended by 113 delegates – men and women – from 68 countries.

I admit that women journalists were seen in a different light back then because sport was considered to be a man’s domain.

There were stereotypes, cultural barriers and narrowed perceptions. The majority of women were not keen on covering sports either, probably due to the long and odd working hours.

Thankfully, the situation has gradually changed.

There are equal opportunities and respect given to womenfolk in this field!

The number of women in this industry has increased and they are now bolder and louder in “speaking for the voiceless”.

The digital era has been a big help too.

What was also heavily debated at the workshop was the media’s role in portraying women athletes.

Several questions were raised. Are women athletes given equal media coverage – be it in print or television? Do women athletes make the headlines because of their looks or their achievements? Is there a huge disparity in terms of women athletes’ participation in competitions and Games?

In Malaysia, the participation of women athletes has increased over the years. For next month’s SEA Games, Malaysia will be represented by a total of 685 athletes – 359 men and 299 women.

At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year, Malaysia won six gold medals – three each by men and women.

Women athletes like Nicol David (squash); Shalin Zulkifli, Sin Li Jane, Esther Cheah (bowling); Nur Suryani Taibi (shooting) and many others have often made the back pages of The Star and they’ve also been given extensive coverage by other media platforms, including television.

Basically, the media in Malaysia doesn’t bother about gender. It’s all about their success and failures; their ups and downs; the challenges and struggles. That’s it.

I concluded my presentation by saying that the only competition women journalists face is against themselves. And, I guess, the same goes for women athletes too. 

The writer wishes to thank all the men and women journalists for promoting sports without gender bias. And also to all the men and women athletes for doing their equal best in their sporting careers. All the best at the Singapore SEA Games!

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