An inspiring look at the women who broke the glass ceiling in sports journalism.
Women in sports journalism have faced an uphill battle to succeed within the “old boy” world of sports. The early trailblazers faced colleagues who ignored them, athletes who tried to humiliate them, fans who ridiculed them, and executives who kept them from doing their jobs—challenges many still face today.
In Who Let Them In? Pathbreaking Women in Sports Journalism, Joanne Lannin recounts the stories of the tenacious and resilient female sportscasters and writers who paved the way for those that followed. Exclusive interviews with such pioneers as CBS Sports’ Lesley Visser, NFL Today’s Andrea Kremer, and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Claire Smith reveal the many challenges these women faced as they sought to break down the gender-based barriers that kept them from press boxes, locker rooms, and broadcast booths. And while great strides have been made in the sports world to correct the gender imbalance, Lannin discusses how misogyny and sexual harassment continues to permeate the industry even today.
Who Let Them In? offers compelling insight into how women sports journalists broke into this male-dominated field and managed to stay there, despite the many obstacles put in their way. It shows the sacrifices and commitment it takes to succeed in sports journalism and discusses what the future may hold for women in a media landscape that continues to evolve almost daily.
Joanne Lannin is a freelance writer and editor. She was a staff writer for the Portland Press Herald in Portland, Maine, for 22 years and was the paper’s first and only woman sportswriter for three years before transferring to the features desk. She taught English and journalism at a secondary school and was a columnist for Maine Women Magazine. Lannin is the author of Billie Jean King: Tennis Trailblazer, A History of Basketball for Girls and Women, and Finding a Way to Play: The Pioneering Spirit of Women in Basketball. She lives in the Portland, Maine, area.
Foreword: By Jackie MacMullan
Chapter One: Why Mary Garber Matters
Chapter Two: Lesley Visser Leads The Way
Chapter Three: Prying Open the Locker Room Doors
Chapter Four: Claire Smith: Hall of Fame Baseball Writer
Chapter Five: Pioneers in Sports Broadcasting
Chapter Six: ESPN: Game-Changer for Women
Chapter Seven: Robin Roberts: Her Roots in Sports
Chapter Eight: Pam Oliver: Sideline Reporter in a Class by Herself
Chapter Nine: Having it All
Chapter Ten: Karen Guregian: Having it Her Way
Chapter Eleven: Play by Play: The Final Frontier
Chapter Twelve: Suzyn Waldman: Pioneer in the Broadcast Booth
Chapter Thirteen: Doris Burke: At the Top of Her Game
Chapter Fourteen: #MeToo Comes to Sports
Chapter Fifteen: We’ve Come A Long Way
Journalist Lannin charts the progress female sports journalists have made over the past 70 years in this brisk and inspiring account. Her profile subjects include Mary Garber, whose coverage of Black high school sports “helped desegregate the sports pages of the [North Carolina] Winston-Salem Journal” in the 1950s and ’60s; Lesley Visser, who “became the story” at the 1980 Cotton Bowl, when University of Houston coach Bill Yeoman ordered her out of the locker room in front of TV cameras; and Suzyn Waldman, a former Broadway singer who has been the color analyst and commentator for New York Yankees radio broadcasts since 2005. Stories of discrimination and harassment from male coaches, players, and fans abound—Waldman, for instance, “received used condoms, toilet paper with feces on it, and vile letters, some of which included death threats” from Yankees fans when she first started covering the team—as do episodes of encouragement and support, such as when California Angels manager John McNamara talked newspaper reporter Lisa Nehus Saxon out of quitting. Lannin also delves into the role that ESPN played in providing more opportunities to women and examines how the #MeToo movement has affected sports. With an appealing roster of profile subjects and a trove of insider details, this is a must-read for young women looking to break into the field.
Pioneering sports journalist Mary Garber began her career in the 1940s when women weren’t even allowed to sit in the press box. After decades in the male-dominated field, she earned numerous honors, including induction into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 2008. This book honors her legacy as well as the careers of women who followed in her footsteps like Lesley Visser, Claire Smith, Robin Roberts, Suzyn Waldman, Doris Burke, and Christine Brennan, journalists who have covered collegiate sports, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the NFL, NHL, and MLB. Lannin, a former Portland Press Herald staff writer, delivers a well-researched, no-holds-barred account of the obstacles and sacrifices these women made to follow their careers, pointing out that while women sports journalists have come a long way, there’s still further to climb to achieve gender balance, inclusivity, and diversity, not to mention navigating the changes to traditional news outlets. An important contribution to women’s studies and sports history.
What makes Who Let Them In? a splendid read is discovering what these pathbreaking women did once they got inside—after pushing past the barriers, physical and emotional, which men put in their way whenever they showed up to write and broadcast sports.
I worked with Joanne Lannin at the Portland Press Herald in the 1980s and quickly came to admire her as a dedicated, professional, inquisitive, and thoughtful journalist with a flair for telling stories. All those attributes are on display in her new book. It's an homage to all the women who dreamed big dreams and broke barriers in a world that wasn't as open-minded or welcoming as it should have been. This book is a necessary read for aspiring journalists or anyone with an interest in the history and evolution of the sportswriting profession.
It’s all here in Joanne Lannin’s terrific book, Who Let Them In?: Pathbreaking Women in Sports Journalism. Read the history of the fearless, authentic, undaunted women who had a passion for sports and the talent to express it. The Boston Globe gave Jackie MacMullan and me a chance to do what we loved more than 40 years ago, about the time we met Joanne Lannin—we’re all grateful for each other.
Jo has given readers a wonderful book that is part history, part story-telling, and all perseverance. This book is an extension of Jo’s own journey and her extraordinary access brings the reader into the careers, hearts, and minds of some of the most impactful women sports journalists of our time. Women who, Jo accurately says, ‘stuck it out and climbed the ladder’. Jo Lannin’s due diligence shows in tremendous fashion and the result is a marvelous, impactful book.
Chances are you know all about Jackie MacMullan, Lesley Visser and Suzyn Waldman. But now, thanks to Joanne Lannin, we have an opportunity to learn more about Mary Garber, Claire Smith, Karen Guregian and other women sports journalists who refused to accept the press box as a male domain. Lannin’s writing is lively, anecdotal and, yes, important.
Features exclusive interviews with trailblazing female sports journalists, including CBS Sports’ Lesley Visser, NFL Today’s Andrea Kremer, and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Claire Smith.
3/10/22, Choice: This book was featured in a roundup of forthcoming Women's & Gender Studies titles.
5/2/22, Sports Business Journal: This book was featured in the sports book Page Turners roundup.