Anna Kessel: Women’s sport still has barriers to break

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Anna Kessel is pushing for fairness in sports coverage / © Kate McShane

Journalism and Sports Journalism students had the opportunity to put questions to The Telegraph women’s sports editor Anna Kessel.

In the first of the LJMU Journalism department’s guest talks of 2021, Anna delivered a fascinating session that focused in particular on the growth of women’s sport after years of being ignored by the media and politicians alike.

Prior to her current role where she oversees a team dedicated to covering women’s sport, Anna spent 15 years as a sports writer for the Guardian and Observer. In 2007 she co-founded the organisation Women in Football, which now has over 4,000 members, and was awarded an MBE for services to journalism and women in sport in 2016.

Anna is passionate about women’s sport and now, as the UK’s first women’s sports editor, feels she is in a position to help make a difference.

She said: “I couldn’t believe someone was going to take such a bold step, not only to create my role but a whole department.

“When I joined The Telegraph I called it a revolution, just because it isn’t happening anywhere else and it is helping drive change.”

Anna discussed some of the obstacles she has had to overcome as a female sports journalist, some of which she admits still exist. However, she is confident progress is being made for young women getting into the industry; progress that runs in tandem with advances for women’s sport.

“There was always that conversation that maybe women couldn’t be entertaining because they were slower and weaker than men, so surely, they couldn’t be as good to watch,” said Anna.

“A lot changed around that when reports came out in 2013 showing how little women’s sports media coverage there was.

Anna joined LJMU Journalism students via Zoom

“There are still many milestones and barriers to break but I think the fact our department exists and that women’s sport has grown so much in profile is really exciting.

She added: “There is still a lot we need to do to support women and anyone who is still underrepresented in the sports media industry.”

With the Covid-19 pandemic also driving change, introducing new ways of working and connecting across industry, Anna believes we will start to see more opportunities outside of what has traditionally been a London-centric industry.

She said: “I think that the pandemic will have accelerated some change with people realising that you can work from home.

“The BBC had quite an impact in moving to Salford which can give great opportunities to regional talent.”

Anna Kessel was the latest in the LJMU Journalism guest talk series that sees students and applicants gain valuable industry insight from leading journalists and media professionals.

About Shannon Garner, JMU Journalism