From a female sports journalism “experiment” to chief football writer at one of the nation’s biggest newspapers, Caroline Wilson’s career has been a reflection of society’s attitude to women.
The Walkley-Award-winner used her keynote address at the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in Sydney to shame sexism in sport.
During her speech at the black-tie dinner, which is hosted by ABC Radio Sydney, Wilson gave a scathing assessment of women’s place in sports media.
The former long-time chief football writer at Melbourne’s The Age newspaper said her experiences in the industry had been difficult.
Her first sports editor — at Melbourne’s now-defunct broadsheet The Herald — told Wilson she was an “experiment”.
After Wilson covered her first AFL practice game in the early 1980s, it was clear the all-male sports sub-editing department were surprised.
“They couldn’t believe a woman could write a reasonable, accurate match report on deadline,” Wilson said.
The 21-year-old also caught some people off guard when she attended her first football writers’ dinner.
“No kidding, I was led to the kitchen and handed an apron when I arrived,” she said.
Being promoted to the position of chief football writer at The Age in 1999 was a huge milestone for Wilson and, more broadly, women in the industry.
Wilson’s new title did not please everyone, however.
“That title, chief football writer, was almost omitted from my first big story because some male colleagues in the department were not comfortable with it,” she said.
She also recounted several occasions she was marched out of football club changerooms, and made to wait outside.
‘My own thoughts were complex’
Sometimes the attacks were serious.
Wilson said she felt sick after media personality and Collingwood Football Club president Eddie McGuire and a group of commentators joked on a Melbourne Radio Station about holding her head under water for $50,000.
“Although I mentioned it on a regular radio segment the following day, the issue was glossed over until a group of women podcasters called the Outer Sanctum addressed the comments,” Wilson said of that 2016 incident.
“My own thoughts were complex but it was important as someone who is seen as strong and even tough to admit to feeling humiliated.”
McGuire later apologised.
Wilson said it is now more important than ever for those in the media to think before speaking.
“Especially now that facts more often go unchecked and immediacy is everything,” she said.
Wilson also used the lecture to slam former Geelong ruckman Sam Newman, a former long-time presenter on Channel 9’s The Footy Show.
In 2008, he attempted to mock the journalist by putting a photo of her face to a lingerie-wearing mannequin.
“I was criticised for taking that episode so personally and speaking up about it to colleagues and bosses at Channel 9,” Wilson said.
“My own newspaper said nothing to me about it for a week.”
The Andrew Olle Media Lecture is held in the honour of the iconic ABC broadcaster of the same name.
Money raised as part of the event is donated to brain cancer research.