As I stepped into the press box at a South Jersey high school football game, where I was to cover my very first assignment for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I looked down at my feet. There they were, my pristine new leopard pointed flats. As I glanced around at the solely male press box, I wondered if they would take me seriously. After all, there’s always the argument: do women belong in sports?
The next day, when I opened up the Saturday paper, there was my name in the byline, with the words “Erin Dunne, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER” beneath it. I felt a surge of pride at those five little words, an instant gratification to the story I had written in an hour the night before in the front seat of my car in an emptying parking lot after the game. I had met my deadline, my word count and while the story certainly required a large amount of editing, I had done it. I had produced my first game news story.
While I was nervous that my monogrammed clipboard and leopard flats would make me stand out in a sea of suits and dress shoes, I have found that I’ve never been treated more fairly in my life; during my first story and every day. While there are certainly comments from outsiders and a man that hangs up on me whenever he calls the office because “women don’t belong in sports”, I am respected and treated as an equal when it comes to my editors and coworkers. It has empowered me to know that I can survive in a workplace as intense as a sports section in a newspaper.
My many shoes have carried from Philadelphia, all over South Jersey and back to Delaware, maybe even in the course of one day. I have a huge collection of to-go coffee mugs sitting in my car’s passenger seat and I now consider Cliff Bars while driving an acceptable dinner. The stress and constant on-the-go feelings is exhilarating and it pays off to see those five little words in the byline.
I have learned so much in just a few months at the Inquirer. My writing style has changed drastically for the better, I’ve learned how to get the best interviews from my subjects, and I’ve learned how to tell stories that thousands of readers can relate to. I’ve met comeback athletes, career all stars, and seen unexpected upsets.
I tell myself every day how lucky I am to be able to be working alongside some of the most influential media people in Philadelphia. Learning the ropes of the newsroom has been a challenge at times, but it pays off when I see my name is print or someone emails me to tell me they loved my story.
Typically, I spend one day in the office at night, handling the score service and entering games into the database. On the weekends, I travel across South Jersey to cover games or interview athletes for a feature story. I have a feature story every Wednesday that runs in the paper, usually on a field hockey player. It is fast paced, exciting and well worth the effort. I have learned the value of listening, of asking questions, and of connecting with your interviewees.
As for my shoes, while they aren’t cleats, they’re handling the sports life just fine.
Erin Dunne is an English Professional Writing major and Journalism minor at the University of Delaware. On campus, she is involved in Alpha Phi Omega and writes a column for Delaware Athletics website called Blue Hen Spotlight. When not writing, she dedicates her time to running and traversing to different restaurants or diners in search of the perfect french fry. For more on Erin, or if you have had a particularly good french fry experience, follow her on her PR twitter account, @ErinVDunne413.