Newsroom to focus on women’s sport

Newsroom today launches a dedicated section for women's sport - LockerRoom - to drive greater coverage of individual and team competitions here and overseas.

Newsroom is one year old today and our founding goal was to fill gaps in the New Zealand media scene, particularly on what we called The Things that Matter. LockerRoom extends that goal to sports.

The new section will be edited by one of the country's best known and regarded journalists, Suzanne McFadden, supported by our managing editor for sports Steve Deane. LockerRoom will recruit and train a journalism graduate and feature columnists who have performed at the top level as well as working with sports bodies to ensure stories of moment are covered.

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy said the team would build LockerRoom progressively. "We're going to walk before we run, and will be seeking reader and sponsorship backing for this venture. We are still a relatively small, highly focused news site and will do as much as we can, when we can, to advance the prominence and news impact of women in sport."

McFadden interviewed Sports Minister Grant Robertson on his policy priority of advancing women's sports - her report is here - and when told about LockerRoom he said: “I applaud you for doing this. It’s fantastic, and it’s just what we’ve got to do; we have to step up for women in sport."

Last month Olympic and Commonwealth Games chief executive Kerryn Smith publicly criticised New Zealand media for what she said was imbalance in the coverage between men's and women's sports. She is also supportive of the LockerRoom initiative:

“The addition of a focused source of features, profiles, issues and news around women’s sport and female athletes is fantastic. We know the power of story-telling in creating role models. We’re excited that there will now be an outlet dedicated to the coverage of women’s sport with the real potential to encourage more women to achieve their potential.

“We know New Zealand women are interested in sport, athletes and their stories and there is a huge opportunity to engage more female fans.”

As well as reporting on our top individuals and teams, and high-profile events for both men and women, LockerRoom will feature stories from the national competitions of women's teams in the major codes. It will also feature the voices of experience and reason from a string of feature columnists. The first is three-time world champion and Olympic bronze medal-winning rower Juliette Drysdale (nee Haigh).

McFadden, an outstanding netball, hockey, yachting and Olympic and Commonwealth games sports reporter and feature writer, said: "LockerRoom is an opportunity to give women in sport a powerful voice. Our female athletes are not only strong, fast, athletic world-beaters, but they also have incredible stories to tell. If, by sharing those stories, we can influence other young women to take up, or continue with sport, then we will be doing our job.”

The figures of media coverage of women’s sport are daunting. Throughout 2016, the All Blacks were mentioned 81,642 times in the New Zealand media; the Silver Ferns, by far the best covered women’s sports team, received 8620 mentions. (Source: iSentia via NZOC research).

The gender balance in media improves during an Olympic year – during the Rio Olympic Games and the year leading up to them, New Zealand male athletes got 49.7 percent of mentions, while female athletes received 48.4 percent.

But our sportswomen were nine times more likely to be pictured with their spouse or partner, 20 percent more likely to be spoken for by their coach, and 39 percent more likely to be referred to as “girls” than men to be labelled "boys".  

We know our sportswomen deserve better.

LockerRoom takes its place alongside our masthead today, featuring our latest stories on the issue of women in sport plus archived stories from the past 12 months. Our stories on men's sports will appear on news value in the general news part of our site.

McFadden, who was made a life member of the Sports Journalists Association in December, will also continue to cover the America's Cup for Newsroom.

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