Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Female athletes deserve to have their stories told


I was once asked what it is I like about sport?

Actually, truth be told, I'm asked that question in some form or another quite a lot - how did you come to be interested in cricket/rugby/league?

But on this particular occasion it seemed more a challenge than a question. There was a detectable sneer to his voice in the way he placed too much emphasis on the "you". As in, how can YOU - a girl! - really know or care about sport.

So I replied by asking, "well what is it YOU like about sport?"

Here's a little known secret about female sports fans - women get hooked into in sport for the very same reasons men are interested in it.

It's for the pure theatre, with a script you never know the end of until the final whistle blows.

It's for Shaun Johnson's sidestep, the opening ball of the summer, Casey Kopua pulling in an intercept at full flight, Stephen Adams' swag, Valerie Adams' swag, Eliza McCartney soaring over a bar nearly five metres in the air and Phil Gould's unironically over the top State of Origin opening monologues.

Even it's even for the I-can't-look moments when your rugby team are up by two points with one minute left on the clock and the opposition are in possession.

While it's the same thing that draws women to sport that does men, the analytics tell us each gender engages with it differently.

Generally, women aren't likely to ring Radio Sport talkback and share their views on who should be the next All Black first five or the Warriors' latest stumble.

Research has shown that women look for different things in their sports coverage - they want less debate, more personality.

The numbers also rather starkly illustrate men's sport dominates sporting media coverage. Various bodies of research done in New Zealand over the past decade put the coverage of women sports at around 10-12 per cent in mainstream media, with the positioning of their stories far less prominent. The exploits of our top female sports stars are too often buried towards the back of the section or tagged on at the end of sports bulletins as an afterthought.

Which is why NZME's new women's sports show She's Got Game is desperately overdue.

This is not about men versus women.

Don't worry, the All Blacks,Warriors and Black Caps aren't going anywhere. And Kieran Read's form will be analysed in the same excruciating detail as ever before.

But this series is about celebrating the incredible achievements of our female athletes in the same we would their male counterparts.

These amazing athletes are just as dedicated and hard-working. They deserve to have their stories told, their voices heard and their strengths showcased.

Men's interest and participation in sport is just assumed, while women have to constantly justify their involvement in that space.

She's Got Game is a place where they don't have to.

- NZ Herald

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Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana has more than a decade's experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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