The brainchild of Sam Squiers, Sportette is the storyteller of women in sport with interesting and thought-provoking features, profiles and opinion pieces. Another example of women supporting women in sport.
Why did you decide to start Sportette?
Sportette had been in the planning for a number of years before it went live. I have always been passionate about Women’s Sports and found myself constantly frustrated at the lack of stories on women in sport in both mainstream and online media.
I was always looking at ways of telling stories on women in sport and searching for story ideas and soon realised there were a lack of sites that focussed solely on telling the stories of women in sport. It was actually my husband who told me that I should start up my own women in sport website and for the next 18months he kept at me until I started to get it underway, it took another 12 months of planning and fine tuning until Sportette finally went live.
What made you decide to start your own website as opposed to working with an existing organisation, website or sport?
I work fulltime as a sports journalist for Channel 9, so was already doing my best to tell the stories of women in sport through the mainstream media. I was also writing women in sport opinion pieces for a number of online sites like DailyLife, The Punch and The Hoopla but just felt I want to create something really unique to Australian Sports Media. I wanted the site to be visually appealing, clean and interesting, a place where all women (sports nuts or not) would be interested in exploring and reading. I didn’t want the site to look like your typical sports site, I wanted to start something really different in order to interest a wider audience, sharing these stories beyond the sports community.
Were you aware of other women’s sports sites? Who?
When I started there weren’t very many sites at all, there was WitsUp for Triathlons which was very successful, Sporting Sheilas and The Women’s Game which focuses on women’s football. We all had different focuses for our sites.
How important is it to set your own editorial direction?
Very important. I have a lot of editorial freedom at Channel 9 which is great and for any site, editorial direction is important. I have a lot of great contacts and supporters from all areas of the media who I constantly call to brainstorm and throw ideas at to get their perspectives. My best friend, Penny Edwell, is representative of my other audience (the non-sports enthusiasts) and is always there to help provide that point of view which has been really valuable. So while I set my own editorial direction, it’s off the back of a lot of preparation, research and a collaboration of many points of view.
How important is it for Women to create their own media?
I think the invention of online resources and websites have been great for the women’s movement, but I think many people underestimate how difficult it is.
Writing and journalism is a profession, journalists study for years at university and have trained for years after that to be able to write the way we do. Identifying angles, leads, interviewing techniques, writing style and the legal ramifications of what you say and write, are not things to be taken lightly.
Running a website also takes an incredible amount of time and money. It certainly isn’t easy. I finish work at 7.30pm at night and am working past midnight most nights on Sportette.
I have had to teach myself wordpress, photoshop and graphic design and then there are the three social media accounts to manage. I don’t think I’ve worked so hard on something for no money, yet have never been prouder of what Sportette’s been able to do. Websites look easier than they really are!
Mainstream media often tells us “no one” is interested in Women’s Sport – what do you say to that?
I think there’s been a huge shift in the way people perceive women’s sports and I think mainstream media is beginning to embrace women’s sports more and more. As a journalist in mainstream media I have definitely noticed a massive change in the way they’re seen and the number of women’s sports stories we report on. I don’t have to fight for these stories half as much as I used to have to years ago!
Channel 9 broadcasts the Women’s cricket, Channel 10 is broadcasting the women’s Big Bash, the Jillaroos had their matches broadcast on Nine and Fox (even on delayed broadcast the Jillaroos match rated higher than the A-League), Wallaroos and Rugby 7s were on Fox Sports, the Matildas and Women’s World Cup in general attracted record figures both here in Australia and in America (breaking a channel record there) and that’s just a handful of the progress that’s been made.
What does it tell us? People are interested in Women’s Sports. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t be getting so many hits on Sportette each month! Mainstream media has realised this and are showing women’s sports more and more. Most people hadn’t been exposed to women’s sports in the past, the more they’re exposed to it, the more their inaccurate pre-conceived ideas about women’s sports are broken down. Women are also being represented in the media the right way now, as athletes not as objects. Change is happening.
So what do you think is needed to take Women’s sports to the next level?
I actually put this back on the sports organisations. The organisations themselves need to value women’s sports, fund women’ sports and support their women’s sports. People love blaming the media for not supporting women’s sports but don’t see what happens behind the scenes. There are a number of times I’ll be jumping up and down trying to do a story on a particular sport only to receive little assistance from the organisation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “Oh we didn’t contact you because we didn’t think you’d be interested in that” when it’s a great women’s sport story. See Sportette’s “Do Women’s Sports have Stockholm Syndrome?” to understand what I’m talking about.
What are your long term plans for your website?
I’d love to grow the popularity of Sportette and be able to pay contributors to the site to help increase the number of articles we publish and therefore our audience reach. I’d love for Sportette to grow to be recognised as the leading source of stories and opinion pieces for women in sport. I would love for our current campaigns “Strong is the New Pretty” and another launching soon, to have a long term impact.
Read More from Women in Sports Media
This interview is a part of a series on women in sports media. Read more:
- Candice Freeman, Sportzgirlz
- Alison Smirnoff, Change Her Game