"unsung Athletes": Covering Women's Sports for Chicago Newspapers, 1970s-1980s

Open Access
Author:
Antunovic, Dunja
Graduate Program:
Mass Communications
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 02, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Marie Hardin, Dissertation Advisor
  • James Ford Risley, Committee Member
  • Patrick Robert Parsons, Committee Member
  • Jessica Lynn Schultz, Special Member
Keywords:
  • journalism
  • women's sport
  • history
  • oral history
Abstract:
In the 1970s, women’s sport in the United States saw several watershed moments. In 1972, Congress passed Title IX, an education amendment that would lead to an exponential increase in girls’ and women’s participation in sport. A few weeks later, Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut dominated the televised coverage of Munich Olympics, conveying images about femininity and athleticism in popular imagination to audiences in the United States. The next year, the “Battle of the Sexes,” Billie Jean King’s tennis match against Bobby Riggs, became a symbol of women’s fight against sexist attitudes and practices in sport. These moments, although credited with spearheading social change and challenging cultural norms, gave only temporary visibility to women’s sport. Ultimately, these efforts did not lead to a substantial shift in gender representations, nor did they challenge gender norms in the sports journalism industry. In this dissertation, I draw upon oral history interviews to illuminate how journalists remembered women’s sport during this time of social change. I interviewed sports journalists who throughout their careers extensively covered women’s sports for their respective newspapers. By centering the voices of journalists, this story foregrounds memories of everyday lived experiences of covering women’s sports. With a focus on one media market, Chicago, the dissertation offers an in-depth analysis of the social, legislative, cultural, and institutional factors that shaped women’s sports coverage in the 1970s and 1980s.