Dawn Davenport brings knowledge, pride and a strong work ethic to her role behind the microphone at Nashville's News2
"The players I've encountered are very respectful. I feel like I'm just one of the guys most of the time. As a female, I do constantly have to battle the credibility issue. If a male counterpart makes a mistake on air, it's usually not the end of the world, but as a female, if you make a mistake on air just once, you can ruin your credibility for good. The battle is making sure your viewers know that you're knowledgeable about what you're reporting on."
- Dawn Davenport -
By Greg Sage
What began with trailblazing Jane Chastain and Phyllis George and continued with the incomparable Lesley Visser has now become commonplace: female sportscasters. Or, perhaps better said, sportscasters who just happen to be female. For as a legion of talented and committed journalists - such as the current wave of recognizable faces like Andrea Kremer, Suzy Kolber and Pam Oliver - have proven, gender equity at the microphone has been every bit as important as that on the field.
Case in point, Dawn Davenport of News2. The Plano, Texas native and Auburn University graduate arrived at Nashville's ABC affiliate in the summer of 2008, as the station's sports department was seeking a modicum of stability. In short order, venerable sports director John Dwyer transitioned into news, Sara Walsh left for Washington, D.C. (later ESPN), Joe Dubin shifted from the morning show into sports, and Cory Curtis departed for Norfolk, Va. (before returning to News2). Immediately, Davenport's blend of sports knowledge, work ethic and on-air ease proved a winning combination. Not bad for a self-proclaimed sports junkie who stumbled into the broadcasting field.
"After pre-med, pre-law, elementary education, and theatre majors didn't fit my personality, I ended up in journalism," reflects Davenport, an SEC All-Academic volleyball student-athlete while at Auburn. "Time wise, it was hard to do an internship while playing a collegiate sport, so I waited until my last semester to intern. I moved to Savannah, Ga., to intern with a local CBS television affiliate there and spent almost 40 hours a week - for free - to learn the business and put together a resume tape. It was worth every minute."
Stations in Wilmington, N.C. and Richmond, Va. would agree. Those two stops prepared Davenport for her move to Nashville, one she credits to News2 news director Matthew Zelkind.
And Davenport raves about her time in the Mid South, in particular dealing with the Tennessee Titans. In light of the recent international story involving TV Azteca female reporter Ines Sainz and the New York Jets - where Sainz was allegedly harassed by several players and coaches - the NFL issued a statement reaffirming its position that all credentialed media members regardless of gender, are to be treated with the same level of respect. Davenport says nothing resembling the Sainz incident has happened to her.
"I really haven't encountered any sexism in my career so far, and I can honestly say that I have never had a coach or player make me feel uncomfortable," Davenport says. "Sometimes, in a group media interview, it almost helps to have the female voice pipe up with a question ... I'm always heard! The players I've encountered are very respectful. I feel like I'm just one of the guys most of the time. As a female, I do constantly have to battle the credibility issue. If a male counterpart makes a mistake on air, it's usually not the end of the world, but as a female, if you make a mistake on air just once, you can ruin your credibility for good. The battle is making sure your viewers know that you're knowledgeable about what you're reporting on."
And whether it is reporting live from the sidelines of a Titans' preseason game to covering high school sports, Davenport takes great pride in her work. Her role model in broadcasting provides a lofty standard.
"Suzy Kolber has to be tops. She's knowledgeable and smart, yet she always lets her personality shine through. I feel like there are so many female reporters out there who try to be too serious. I love the fact Suzy is high energy."
To say Davenport's career trajectory is mirroring Kolber's would not be an exaggeration. From volleyball letter-winner to network star? One would be foolish to bet against Davenport, who concedes she is more focused on enjoying the journey than bound by any ultimate career destination.
"I've always wanted to do sideline or feature reporting for ESPN. We'll see ... as I get older, the appeal of sidelines, with all of that travel, lessens. I know I want to stay somewhere in the South no matter what the next step is. My fiancé and I love it here in Nashville and plan to be here for a while. Life is boring if you have it all planned out."
Greg Sage is the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for Belmont University Athletics. He also serves as an adjunct instructor of sport journalism for the Sport Administration graduate program at Belmont University.