Marist had the honor of hosting a prominent sports broadcaster this past week. Presented by The Marist Center for Sports Communication, Linda Cohn, the first full-time female sports anchor, spoke at Marist College on Oct. 28 in the Fusco Recital Hall.
Cohn presented a discussion based on her knowledge of the sports communication field, her experiences working with ESPN and other outlets in the sports broadcasting department.
“Sports gave me something to look forward to,” said Cohn. “I did whatever I could to make sports my profession.”
Cohn began her presentation by recreating her youth to the audience and giving insight about her career.
“My childhood love for hockey has everything to do with where I am sitting today,” said Cohn. “I always knew I was going to have sports in my life.”
Cohn recalls a period of her life when she was patronized with low self-esteem, and the thrill she received from her favorite sports team winning was her source of merriment.
“I did not feel good about myself when I was younger,” said Cohn. “Sports were my outlet to escape what I was thinking, and instead pour my heart into my passion.”
For this exact reason, she chose to pursue sports as a career despite the doubts she received from friends and family members.
“Once I realized my passion for sports, I did not let what others say bother me,” said Cohn.
Similarly, Rick Angelo, a producer of Sports Center and fellow Marist Alumni, recalls his passion for sports at a time when he least expected it.
“I was a pre-med student studying at Marist College when I discovered my love for Sports Communication,” said Angelo. “I always lived by the belief that it is silly to do what I want to do, but in the back of my mind I knew it was not silly to try something you have a passion for.”
Angelo was currently furthering his studies at Vassar Hospital when he heard about NBC Sports.
“I firmly believe that if you want to try something, you should try it,” said Angelo. “It is really not that hard to get a job if you make something happen and create the opportunity for yourself.”
During the course of the discussion, Director of The Marist Center for Sports Communication Keith Strudler engaged in dialogue with Cohn and Angelo regarding both of their accomplishments and Cohn’s position as a role model for women in the field.
“One of the most important takeaway’s from this discussion is learning to do what you have a passion for,” said Strudler. “It is all about what you choose to do with your time.”
Cohn makes a valid point that everyone has to start somewhere, even if that “somewhere” is at the bottom.
“It is all about having a simple idea and not being afraid,” said Cohn. “I started off by working at a small radio station in Long Island to receiving a phone call from Ed Ingalls asking me to cover the U.S. Open and Mets games.”
Besides passion, the importance of a strong education prepares future broadcasters to enter the sports communication field.
“During my first semester of college, I was a solid C student and was placed on academic probation,” said Cohn. “I then realized I had to start studying while also focusing my time on what mattered most- sports.”
Learning to find a balance between school and sports and not pile on the pressure to do everything at once are vital life lesson’s.
Overtime, it also becomes evident which individual areas of broadcast need more work and which ones are strongpoints.
“You have to learn how to write in order for your personality to come out when you write your own scripts,” said Angelo. “You have to be able to tell a story to America in 2 sentences and grab the viewer’s attention in the process.”
Cohn points out that once you do identify your weaknesses, it is okay to work around them.
“I was not all that good at having my own talk show,” said Cohn. “I enjoyed it and I had my opinions surrounding it, but it was not the time.”
Cohn expresses the dire need for sports communication broadcasters to step out of their comfort zones in order to embrace new opportunities.
“I had my big break when I moved to Seattle, Wash. in 1989 from my current home in Long Island,” said Cohn. “It was my chance to work at a new radio station and I took it.”
The most empowering element of Linda Cohn’s discussion regarded her knowledge and wisdom surrounding women in the field of sports communication.
“The best advice I can give to women who choose to enter the sports communication field is not to take anything personally,” said Cohn. “You are choosing to be in a man’s world and to this day they still do not know how to respond to women in the field.”
Cohn makes it known that the criticisms women may receive online either via Twitter or other forms of social media do not define who you are as a woman or as a broadcaster.
“Linda Cohn is a woman who has broken barriers in a men’s sports world,” said Strudler.
Playing for a male hockey team as a young, teenage girl prepared Cohn for the struggle she would face upon entering the sports communication field.
“I will never regret playing for the hockey team as a young girl,” said Cohn. “The knowledge I gained about teamwork with men definitely helped me with my career.”
In a cutthroat field of work designated for males, Linda Cohn is one of the first people you will meet that will greet you with a smile and genuinely mean it.
“I am automatically an underdog because I am a woman working in a man’s world,” said Cohn. “For this reason, I choose to be a good person and do things the right way by saying hello to other women and being as friendly to them as possible.”
The audience responded positively to Cohn and the messages she portrayed.
“As a woman in the communication field, I appreciated everything Linda Cohn had to say tonight,” said Karen Martes, a communications student. “She is making positive strides for the field of sports communication, and for women’s equality in general.
Entering the sports communication field is not always an easy task for women, but broadcasters have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make it as a female broadcaster in a patriarchal profession.
“One of my earliest positions was interviewing players on the New York Islander’s team in the locker rooms,” said Cohen. “Women should not be limited to the locker room, if I had a choice, all reporters would be out of there.”
Women typically received the less-popular job offerings, such as interviewing men in the locker room while they are either prepping or concluding a game.
“I took the job because I had to let them know I knew what I was talking about,” said Cohen. “Limiting female reporters to the locker room is a stupid concept, but I took the necessary steps to pursue my passion.”
Cohen encourages women to continue fighting for their place in the sports world despite the obstacles they may face.
“As a male, it was enlightening to look at the sports communication field from a female perspective, said Peter Cleaves, a sports communication student. “I gained a newfound respect for women who are pursuing reporting.”