Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Katie Brown, Reporter for Sunrise
Katie Brown is currently a reporter for Channel Seven’s Sunrise. She has a prolific background in sports, having played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. She is passionate about women in sports and sports journalism. So passionate, that she founded her own media outlet, Real Talk Media, which puts a spotlight on women's sports. Medianet sat down with Katie to discuss the industry and her exciting career.
You’re currently working as a reporter for Sunrise and the founder of Real Talk Media, what does a normal day look like for you?
I don’t actually work 5 days a week yet which is pretty funny, but a normal working day would start with a 3 AM wake-up call. If I'm in the studio I get my hair and makeup done, then we do a live cross every half an hour from weather or sport, changing locations in between.
Can you tell me a bit about Real Talk Media and what motivated you to found it?
I started Real Talk during Covid because I thought it was a good opportunity to have an extra platform to expose women's sports. I think in women's sport we tend to focus a lot on the positive, and can default to just giving girls a pat on the back. I think it's also important that we call out when they're not at that elite standard if they're not playing well and make sure we’re honest.
Growing up as a girl playing sport you don't really expect to ever have attention on you, because that’s just how it was. I remember reading about netball, tennis and the Olympics, but that was about it for women's exposure. So that's probably what motivated me to dive into this.
My experience at SEN also made me realise that a lot of men are just scared to ask, they want to talk to you about it without being shouted at.
How has the sports journalism industry changed since you began your career?
I’ve noticed more men are reporting on women's sports which is huge. You also don't have to look very far to see females in high roles in sports, which is great. Now you can see female presenters on the major networks everywhere.
Even just today, OPTUS has announced an all-female FIFA broadcast team. At the same time, I think there should probably be a man in that team too. Don't do it because it's politically correct, do it because that's the right person for the role, and we’re still probably finding our feet in that aspect.
Yeah, it’s confusing because it can seem like they’re just giving the women to report on the women, but there would be questions asked if there was an all-male panel for the men’s games too.
That’s what’s been happening for years! It’s like, “where are the girls at? Women can do this job!” There’s probably no right answer for that, but I think balance is good.
Do you think it is important to have platforms that focus on women’s sports news?
That’s an argument I have with myself all the time. I want Real Talk to kind of be the opposite of what a newspaper is at the moment, which is mostly male sports and a sprinkle of women's sports.
But I have found myself always focusing on minority groups and women's sports, which I’m trying to be mindful of because I want my audience to be men too - since they're the ones whose focus I want to shift the most. So it’s a fine line of not coming across like I am this savage feminist who's trying to change the opinions of men, but also making them feel comfortable.
That’s definitely tricky - do you find it can be difficult to find the right voices to amplify?
Yeah! A lot of women are scared. So many women in sports, who are really good at the sport, don't have a voice. Sometimes it tends to be those fringe players who are happy to speak out, and then they will sort of get shifted to the corner. Other women see that and then are too scared to speak up.
Where do you see the future of women’s sports and female sports journalism in Australia?
I think the coverage of women’s sports is absolutely increasing. There’s almost a quota where you’re going to be seen as doing the wrong thing if you don't have some women’s sport in your news.
Which is a great thing, but there are definitely people who don't look at gender and just report on sport if it's good sport. For example, my old boss, Pat Welsh, would report if something good happened, regardless of whether it was male or female, and I love that. I didn't ever have to speak up because he was sort of doing that for me, and that meant so much.
As for women covering sports, there are so many more even in the last 5 years. When I was coming through I had Yvonne Sampson that I looked up to a lot, and then there was Erin Molan, and now there’s Danika Mason and a whole panel of Fox rugby league presenters.
Do you think as female sports journalism grows, you’ll see changes in the audience as well?
I would like to think more women will watch sports when they can see a representation of themselves. We saw it with AFLW in the first year it was televised, participation in Queensland went up 280%. That number is just through the roof, I'll never forget it!
More participation in women's sports also means that when they retire, they’ll move into commentary and cover the sport. Which brings more eyeballs from families and friends wanting to watch the people they know.
Do you think that growth of the journalism industry will trickle into better funding for facilities and training environments?
Yeah definitely. It’s important because especially in the NRLW and AFLW, the players are expected to behave like professional athletes because they’re televised, but they're not treated like professional athletes. So they have these expectations, but they're not paid full-time. That can mean that maybe they’re still juggling a job or study. They could also be mothers trying to look after their kids, they might not have family support, or their partner might have to work to bring in a salary.
How do you think we can improve the visibility of women? And do you think that will improve those things?
Oh yeah - we need to make sure that women's sport is televised on prime time TV whenever the men’s is. Media plays such a big part in promoting the product, and marketing is huge.
You’ll hear, “we don’t have any money to market the product”. But that’s on you. You need to commercialise it, you need to invest properly. If you don’t think that it’s got legs, you’re not valuing it correctly, because women’s sports can make you money, you just have to invest in it properly.
What advice would you give to young women who are interested in pursuing careers in sports journalism, who might be intimidated by the fact that it is a male-dominated industry?
Don't be intimidated, it’s going to be intimidating whatever you decide to do in life. It is going to be overwhelming at the start, and you’re going to feel like you don't know anything, but you just have to keep on keeping on. It’s simple but it's so effective.
It’s also important to be vulnerable and know when to ask for help - I struggled with that at the start of my career. My mum actually said to me, “Katie you’re 22, if you learn one thing every day for a whole year, you are going to know 365 more things by the end of it.”