Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Sarah Burt, Digital Sports Reporter for Channel Seven
Sarah Burt is currently a Digital Sports Reporter for Channel Seven. In the past, she has worked as the lead AFLW Reporter at ESPN, a Boundary Rider for ABC Radio and as a AFLW Contributor for The Age. Medianet sat down with Sarah to talk about her trailblazing career and the future of female sports journalism.
You are currently working as a Sports Reporter at Channel Seven. What does a normal day look like for you?
During the AFLW season there’s a lot going on, but I have just transitioned into a full-time role with Channel Seven, so things are looking a little different this year. Before I went full time with Seven there was a lot of juggling different interviews and deadlines.
At the moment, my day is waking up, reading the news on as many different platforms as possible, chatting to the team to see who’s covering what, and what else needs to be covered. Then it’s doing a deeper dive into some of those more niche areas, like social media, to see what other stories we can come up with that aren’t that hard news side of things.
Once the AFLW season kicks off I’ll be working across the weekends at the games with the ABC. Particularly with AFLW the season getting longer and longer, more and more opportunities are coming up, so I’m not sure what the season will look like.
Have you always wanted to be a sports journalist?
I always wanted to be a writer, and I loved dealing with people so that's sort of what led me here. I’ve always loved sport and storytelling, so once I went back to uni and did my masters in journalism, that's when I really decided that sports journalism was something I wanted to give a go.
The feature writing and the human element of the storytelling is what really drew me to sport. It’s finding the stories behind the athlete and finding a part of their experience that everyone can identify with, whether they consider themselves a sports fan or not.
How has the sports journalism industry changed since you began your career?
Something I have certainly noticed is that there seems to be more of a conscious effort to include women in the industry, and people are much more aware of the need to have diverse voices. There’s still a lot more work to be done, ticking off the box of just having a woman in the newsroom needs to be balanced out by having diverse voices of LGBTQI+ people and people of different races.
One reason for the growth of the women’s industry possibly doesn’t come directly from the media, it possibly comes from what we’re seeing in the actual sporting leagues. The AFLW, NRLW and Super Netball are all expanding super quickly and we’ve got one of the best women’s cricket teams in the world. Growth in those areas is really pushing media representatives to understand that they need women to talk about women.
Women’s sports is an emerging industry and it's such an exciting time to be at the forefront of it like you are, where do you see the future of women’s sport and sports journalism in Australia? For example, do you think we’ll ever just have the all-inclusive AFL instead of the AFL and AFLW, and what do you think that would do to the sports journalism industry?
I don’t think we will see all the sports merging into one competition with all genders, and I don’t necessarily think that that would be a positive thing, but I think that you can give all genders the same opportunity without merging them into the same competition. I hope that eventually the league for men, women and nonbinary people, reaches a place where they all get equal funding, equal sponsorship opportunities, and equal game-time. Which should help to remove the conversations of ‘the men get paid more because they play for longer or they have heavier training schedules’.
What impacts do you see when women’s voices in sport, such as your own, are amplified? How can we continue to improve the visibility of women in the sport industry?
I think it’s about having chats like this and lifting each other up. Obviously it's still a skewed industry, and there’s a lot more men than women, but for the women that are part of the sports industry it's about lifting each other up and not seeing each other as stealing each other's jobs, or competing against one another.
You might find that you will be the only woman going for a job, or you might be one of two women sitting on a panel, so sometimes it might feel like there’s less opportunity for women. However, it’s about acknowledging that whoever does get that opportunity, is helping to grow the women’s sport industry for the greater good. Having each other's backs and acknowledging that every season and every year the industry is growing and growing, and it’s not going to go back to how it was, it is improving.
In your opinion, what role do female journalists play in promoting gender equality and advancing feminist causes in the sports media industry?
I don’t see myself as flying the flag for equality or anything like that, I genuinely am doing a job that I love. But I do find myself primarily writing on female sport, and it’s interesting because sometimes people ask me questions like “you work so hard during the 3 or 4 months of AFLW and you have all these amazing opportunities, when do you think that stepping stone will convert to opportunities in the men’s game?”. They’re different sports with different athletes, I love them both but one is not superior to the other. You write about what you want and what you’re interested in.
It comes down to letting women have an opportunity to have equal representation in the media. I understand that it’s difficult because of funding and other factors that we talked about before, however, we need to give women that front page. Don’t just give it to them on grand final day, or when they win the world cup or whatever it may be. Give it to them just as much as it is given to the men. That will take away the opportunity for people to argue that women’s sport doesn’t bring in as much revenue and there isn’t as much interest. The reality is that there might not be, but we also don’t know because we’ve never been in the situation where they have had the same amount of coverage.
What advice would you give to any young women who are interested in pursuing careers in sports journalism, that’s typically seen as such a male-dominated industry?
My advice would be, don’t get intimidated by the narrative of it being a boys’ world. Find other women that are like minded and stick to them like glue. I love it when people call for advice, or to just chat things through.
We’re actually really lucky because it’s a really exciting time to be women in the sports industry, so make the most of that, because people are on the lookout to give other women opportunities.
Do you have a favourite moment from your career so far?
Probably interviewing Daisy Pearce after the semi finals of AFLW last year since she’s now retired. At the time I was really excited, but I probably didn’t realise how much I would look back on it. As a huge AFLW fan I’ve covered her stories for quite a few years, so that was a really significant milestone for me.
What are your pitching preferences or how do you prefer people to get in contact with you?
Email is best but always happy for people to follow up with a text or phone call.