CSN ‘s Jill Sorenson sat down with Friends in Cold Places to talk about life as a female beat reporter covering the Washington Capitals and what has changed in her 15-plus years covering various sports, including the Caps. Jill previously spoke to the Washington Caps Fan Club and this article takes a deeper look at what Jill does and her perspective as a woman working in the hockey world.
When asked what has changed the most, Jill said: “Definitely social media. That’s the biggest thing. Right out of college I was a reporter in Duluth and we barely had the internet. That was 1998. So now the way that things advance with social media and digital media, it is absolutely crazy.” She went on to say that she and the network have had to evolve to meet the challenge. Reporters such as her, have to keep up with social media while juggling the demands of a daily/weekly show and pre- and post-game Caps shows on CSN.
As for what has changed for her as a female reporter, Jill responded that there are “a lot more females.” When she was hired in 2000 by NBC’s George Michael, Rachel (Alexander) Nichols had just finished her stint as the Washington Post beat reporter covering the Caps. At that time, Rachel was one of a few women beat reporters. Based on Jill’s exposure to other reporters (remember no real internet yet), she didn’t see many other female beat reports. “Now everywhere you go, there are females on the beat.”
Talking about the stereotypical comments we often hear about female sports reporters like “just another pretty face,” Jill told us:
“I think it is cyclical. I think that women who know sports and have a passion for it are more common than those who don’t. But I think what viewers want and what management wants is cyclical. Sometimes they just want someone who can read the news or someone who can do good interviews but that is few and far between. I think that overall it turns back to we need someone who knows what they are talking about, and just because a female looks good on camera doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what she is talking about. They may try something but figure out it didn’t work; and that goes for males too! If you are a male and you don’t know what you are talking about you aren’t going to make it .I think it is more pronounced if you are a female and you don’t know what you are talking about. That’s a constant. You have to know more than the males do or you are called out.”
We then talked about the best parts of her job, Jill had a hard time answering because she loves what she does and she gets paid to do it! She said she has to pinch herself every day. On the downside: “The hours can stink, especially during playoffs with the travel and being away from the family and all, but really overall, I can’t complain about anything. And it’s fabulous.”
Jill discussed with us how young women who want to break into the field can prepare themselves for a career covering sports. The number one thing she stressed is that they develop knowledge by reading, studying, and watching everything they possibly can. And then they need to develop experience in the field as an intern. “Work for free. And do whatever it takes to get experience to do this for a living,” she advised. She cautioned that it isn’t glamorous starting out and that one’s first job will most likely be for free. And it will be “a lot of fun and a lot of hours—like 60/70 a week…and you will get paid next to nothing.” She told us that the best part is that everyone is in the same boat and even though you may be working long hours, you are doing it because you love it. “If you don’t love it, don’t do it.”
In a previous Facebook post, Jill reported Coach Trotz has hung a number of slogans around the locker room at Verizon Center. We asked Jill if she had a slogan or mantra. She talked about two in particular, one from her soccer coach in college who told her to “Just get it done.” By that he meant, don’t complain, make excuses, or think of reasons why you can’t do something. The other came from former mentor George Michael who used to say: “Don’t mess it up,” only in more colorful language! Jill will say that jokingly to co-workers to break the tension or relax a tense situation. She expressed, “if you are tense with a deadline – it’s a way to crack a smile.”
Make sure to tune into CSN-Mid Atlantic for Jill’s interviews and game insights. She can often be seen in the Zamboni pit recording some color-commentary before a game at Verizon or in the press area at Kettler conducting interviews. Follow her on twitter (@jillCSN) and like her Facebook page, you won’t be disappointed! And don’t forget to look up during intermission as most likely she will be bringing us another great interview to watch.
This is the first interview in a series of upcoming reports on Women in Hockey. If you have a story to share or a suggestion for a future interview, just send us a comment.
Photos by Brittney Marcum (bamitsbrittney93)