Friday, July 22, 2011

How I wound up being "special to Fox"

Finally, someone reading my articles on Fox Soccer asked the big question: RealMD posted the following comment yesterday:
Why Fox Sports would partner with the author of this essay is obvious.  Why she would partner with Fox Sports is the question.
Go up to the top masthead on this website and click on Fox Sports.  It brings you to their main web page.  Run your cursor across the subsections with their dropdown menus.  It goes something like this:  NFL, MLB, Nascar, etc. Pause on "Soccer", and one subsection says Women's World Cup.  Then keep going one by one, all the way to the last one, which says "More" Under More you will find the other two subsections that have anything to do with women,  NCAA WBK, and Babes. Professor Doyle, is this the right partner?
So, to reassure FaLW writers who might be concerned about the wild compromise implied by my being "special to Fox" (as the site declares), I thought I'd answer the question by telling the story of how I came to have this strange bedfellow.

Shortly before the start of the Women's World Cup, I was surprised by an email from Richard Farley, Fox Soccer's new website editor. We are familiar with each other's work, but had never met.

He asked if I would consider contributing to a section on the Women's World Cup. He frankly admitted that when he came in, there had been no plan at Fox Soccer to cover the tournament. Unlike a lot of newspapers and mainstream sports sites, he wanted to commit to detailed reporting on the tournament from the first game out.

I have been complaining for years about the lack of attention to the women's game and to the harder issues within it. Recently, in a personal effort to do my part, I have begun to project my perspectives into media spaces - I co-hosted  podcasts for KPFK throughout the men's World Cup, and have contributed one story on India's women's program to the New York Times Global Edition, and two sports-related "comments" to The Guardian.

I tried pitching a series of newspaper articles on the Women's World Cup in keeping with this work. All liberal papers. None were interested. This is partly because I do not have personal contacts in sports departments (the one editor I knew was laid off), and also because a pitch from a minnow like me - about women's sports, written from a feminist angle? Well, it doesn't fit any existing 'demand.' Most of the things I write about aren't 'stories' from a mainstream media perspective. (But a ponytail pull is??)

Sometimes I think that sports editors can't handle feminist or anti-homophobic writing about women's sports unless it's from a guy, with an established "guy" voice. Dave Zirin is one of the few sports writers able to make strong, even radical arguments about gender and sports - and I am not sure he'd have the visibility that he does if he were a woman, who wrote at least half her material about women's sports and always had. (I am guessing he would support this point, being the feminist that he is.)

Anyway, this is just to say that the more I've been writing about sports, the more I've noticed that the complex structures that maintain the sexism and homophobia in the sports world regulate not only what gets said, but who gets to say it - how, and where. And I've thought - I shouldn't assume the worst - until I try to put my own work out there, I won't know what is really possible, and what isn't.

As a tenured professor with a healthy and stable career (as much as that is possible in this economy), I feel a certain call - if I can't "risk" putting myself and my writing out there, who can?  Lead by example - I really believe that.

In any case, if it were Fox News, I would not have taken the request to write seriously - I would not have replied. It wasn't Fox News, but Fox Soccer - I actually watch that network, as do a lot of fans.

Jenna Pel and Jeff Kassouf were already board with Farley's WWC project: I respect both very much for their sustained, reasonable coverage of the women's game. All White Kit and The Equalizer are must-reads for people looking for concrete information and informed perspectives. If I'd been asked to compile a site featuring WWC coverage by my top bloggers, they'd be there - along with Cross Conference.

Given that Fox seemed to have so little invested in the women's game, I don't think any of us felt like there was a "Fox line" for us to tow.

I made no compromises vis a vis my politics - even more incredibly, I wasn't asked to do that, nor was I asked to simplify my writing. I was amazed at how prominently the women's game was featured on Fox Soccer's main page - from the start of the tournament to days beyond its finish. That is huge.

Anyway - to address RealMD's question regarding the "babes" section of the site. Never checked it out. All the "babes" I ever wanted to see were featured prominently in the match reports.


  1. Fox Soccer is not the same world as Fox News. You are like the Simpsons.

    Every minutes of the Simpsons (and every page of JD) is a minute (or page) without Islamic conspiracies and fake videos of ACORN workers.

  2. My experience in soccer has always been that liberal and leftist media that I liked never wanted to have anything to do with it, so it doesn't surprise me that Fox would ask you.

    Just to take another example of thousands I have noticed down through the decades, on March 1, 2003, there was a big cricket match in the cricket World Cup. It was between India and Pakistan, and both countries bascially shut down because of the importance of this match. A billion people were affected by it. So how much coverage did the NY Times give to it? Nothing. How much did the right-leaning Wall Street Journal give? They had a preview of the game, and at that time they didn't even have a sports section.


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