HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" presented a disturbing look at the problems of sexism and ageism facing female sports reporters Tuesday night.
But the most eye-opening part of Jon Frankel's piece was NFL sideline reporter Laura Okmin saying Fox Sports benched her for a few games last season in favor of a younger female reporter with no NFL reporting experience.
Neither Okmin nor Frankel named the other sideline reporter. But sources tell me that Okmin was talking about 29-year old Fox colleague, Holly Sonders.
Sonders jumped to Fox from Golf Channel, where she served as an on-air host. She was panned for her live player interviews during Fox's first U.S. Open golf coverage in 2015.
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Last season, Sonders worked several NFL games as a sideline reporter with Okmin's usual announce team of Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston.
The Sonders move rattled Okmin:
FRANKEL: “Why were you taken off games?”
OKMIN: “So another reporter could have an opportunity.”
FRANKEL: “Somebody younger than you?”
FRANKEL: “Did that reporter have the same level of experience you did?”
FRANKEL: “Same base of knowledge?”
OKMIN: “Not in football. No.”
FRANKEL: “And how did you feel?”
OKMIN: “Horrible, you know? I worked very hard for this job. I knew this was coming. I knew the shelf life of being a woman on television and in this business. And all of a sudden, I think I was thrown by it.”
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Fox Sports took a beating from HBO in the piece.
Frankel noted 54-year-old anchor/reporter Colleen Dominguez is suing Fox for age discrimination.
He reminded viewers that Fox demoted 55-year-old sideline reporter Pam Oliver from the first-string NFL announce team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in favor of 38-year-old Erin Andrews.
Fox countered that Dominguez's allegations are untrue, stating: "Fox sports does not discriminate based on age. We make our productions based on editorial and business needs."
Okmin will be back as the sideline reporter for Albert and Johnston on NFL games this season.
The network plans to rotate Sonders and Shannon Spake (who recently signed with Fox from ESPN) as sideline reporters with the announce team of Sam Rosen and David Diehl.
The odd man out is actually sideline analyst Tony Siragusa, who got the heave-ho after 12 years with Fox.
Here's Sonders, a former college golfer at Michigan State, talking about her move to Fox from the Golf Channel in 2015.
Meanwhile, Okmin's getting ready for her second act, according to HBO.
She's used her 15 years of sports reporting experience to create a "boot camp" for aspiring female sports reporters.
She teaches them how to prepare, dress and command respect from male players and coaches.
They'll need all the help they can get in the male-dominated sports TV industry, she told Frankel.
FRANKEL: “Do you feel good about where women are in this business?”
OKMIN: “No. No. But I could get bitter, and I could get really angry about the direction and being an older woman and aging and feeling like, ‘You know, she's being pushed out or aged out of this business.’ Or I could do something to make a difference.”
After the piece, I thought Gumbel made a great point when he asked Frankel if the problem is as much ageism as sexism?
Ageism is a curse inflicting the entire media business, where young and cheap is seen as preferable to more experienced and expensive. Even if inexperienced writers/reporters don't know what they're doing.
"It's a little of both," said Frankel.