A Sports Editor Takes Title IX and Runs With It
One of the mistaken assumptions that an editor can make is in believing with circular logic that what readers want is what the newspaper prints and that the newspaper, therefore, prints what the readers want. Often, though, readers aren't aware of what delights they are missing until a newspaper offers new items to the menu -- a gardening section or a religion columnist, for instance.
Sports editors, including those at The Traveler, have too often assumed that only men's sports -- football, baseball and basketball -- would be of interest to readers because that's what their readers read. The majority of sports readers are indeed male, and an argument often made is that the paper, in general, or the sports section, in specific, should serve the majority of its readers.
Newspapers, however, are not built to serve the majority; they are designed to serve many minority groups of readers. Some people love politics; some love the crossword puzzle; others want the stock quotes. In providing a little something for everyone, newspapers sell to all.
After Title IX was passed in 1972 mandating gender equity in athletics, The Traveler began to cover more women's athletics as the university began to increase its number of women's sports. Even so, coverage of men's athletics still overwhelmed coverage of women's athletics.
During the 1979-80 school year, however, The Traveler's first female sports editor, Linda Bedford, pledged to change that condition, not by reducing the coverage of men's sports but by giving women their due. In a statement of goals printed after she was named sports editor, Bedford explained her goals:
Since The Traveler is the voice of the campus community, published by students for students, I tried to find out what students wanted in the sports section. I came up with the following: Students want to know what is going on at the national level in sports, but they want to know what is going on in men’s and women’s tennis, swimming, track, and soccer intramurals as well.
UA students want to know if a diver ranks fifth in the nation or if the tennis team is ranked in the top 20.
This campus is football and basketball oriented, and I fit right in with the rest as a loyal fan, but there are also tennis, track and baseball fans. I believe these people deserve a chance to be informed also.
I’m not out to please every student at the UA — the task is too great for me to try. As my goal, I simply want the sports section of The Traveler to be of a high quality and maintain an interest level where students will read at least one article instead of just flipping through and throwing the paper down.
Bedford, who lettered in track from 1977 to 1980, ran with that concept during the following year and provided a much more varied and balanced approach to sports coverage than readers of The Traveler had seen previously.