Story by Gabby Urenda
Ask me who I am and where I’m from, and I will probably tell you I am a UO School of Journalism and Communication senior from Salem, Oregon. But if you want to know where I’m really from and who I am, I will tell you that my family migrated from Michoacan, Mexico, and I identify as a Mexican-American.
I am also an aspiring sports journalist, but it has taken a while to discover that about myself. My culture prompted my love for soccer — and sports in general — at a young age. And the UO has been the perfect setting to figure out who I am and what I want. The first crucial step was declaring my major. Sounds easy, right?
I first came here as an accounting major (seriously) because, as a child of migrant parents, I felt pressure to make a vast amount of money once I graduated. I wanted to show my parents that the sacrifices they made to come to this country with nothing weren’t in vain.
As much as I tried to be an accountant, however, I eventually acknowledged that it just wasn’t me. I couldn’t seem to stifle the voice inside of me that kept asking if I could become a sports journalist and make a living doing something I loved.
Fortunately, I soon realized that I could make my parents proud and listen to that voice inside of me at the same time.
Finding a calling in broadcast
The SOJC has given me the tools to show my family — and myself — that it’s possible to make a living in this field. It’s helped me fill my portfolio with experience in writing, social media, video and many other platforms.
One of my favorite platforms so far has been broadcast. Being a reporter for DuckTV Sports, a student-led television network, has given me the confidence to gain essential skills on and off camera. I’ve been able to work on my on-camera reel while interviewing people on the street, anchoring and producing features.
For example, I was able to interview Maite Cazorla, who plays on the women’s basketball team. I ended up making a feature out of her experience as an international student and athlete. Cool, right? Even cooler, I was able to interview her in Spanish. Cazorla, who is from Spain, was relieved to have the chance to speak in her native tongue, and I was happy to practice my Spanish in front of the camera. I even won an award for “Best Reporter” for the segment.
Empowering women in sports media
My work at the SOJC also extends to other positions I hold on campus. I have successfully combined my major with my minor in women and gender studies to become the editor-in-chief of the only feminist magazine on campus, The Siren.
And that’s not the only way I help women empower themselves through media.
I am also president of the Association of Women in Sports Media’s (AWSM) UO chapter, which encourages women to go into the sports media industry. This position gives me the opportunity to help women feel confident in a field that doesn’t always welcome them. I want them to feel like they belong and can become leaders, just like men can.
AWSM has opened up many doors for me. With the help of the SOJC, I was able to sit down with ESPNW columnist and writer Kate Fagan to discuss her past and future work. As a huge Fagan fan, I almost jumped out of my seat when she complimented me mid-interview. Fagan took the time to come to the university and have a sit-down interview with a student, but that’s the type of support AWSM provides — women in the sports industry helping other women.
I found the same encouragement working for the Pac-12 Networks as a runner — someone who literally runs and gets things for the entire crew, including the talent. The sideline reporter at the Oregon vs. Virginia football game happened to be Cindy Brunson, who is also a member of AWSM. When we chatted on the sidelines, she asked me about my major and what I wanted to do after graduation. Being a runner, I thought I was just going to fetch things for her, but she took the time to get to know me. At the end of the day, we said goodbye, and she gave me her personal phone number in case I ever needed anything. She also agreed to speak to Oregon’s AWSM chapter about the struggles and triumphs she has faced in the sports industry.
How to succeed in sports media
Even in the relatively short time I have been working as a woman in the world of sports media, I have learned a few things that have made all the difference. Here are my top five tips:
- Hold your head up high. Even if you feel intimidated, there’s a reason why you’re there. So don’t run away from your ability to be great.
- Dress to impress. Yes, people should not be judged by what they wear, but more people are looking at you to fail when you’re a woman in this business. It’s the hard truth, so don’t give anyone another reason to look down on you.
- Do your homework. Not everyone knows everything about sports. One time, a guy asked me how long a soccer game was. Make sure you walk in there with everything you’ve got, and don’t give them another reason to bring you down.
- Make friends. Everyone in the sports media world knows each other, so making connections doesn’t hurt. Plus, they’ve got your back if you miss a stat or a quote.
- Be respectful. Using foul language or talking about using drugs or alcohol is only going to make you look bad. These are the people you will be working for or alongside after graduation, so don’t mess it up now.
Gabby Urenda is an aspiring print and broadcast journalist who plans to graduate from the SOJC in 2017. In addition to pursuing a degree in journalism with a minor in women and gender studies, she works as a video production intern for GoDucks, serves as president of UO’s AWSM chapter and is a student production assistant at the PAC-12 Network. This summer she completed an internship with the 27 Outs Baseball network, where she covered minor league baseball and ADA Collection and managed the company’s social media accounts. You can view her work at gabbyurenda.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @GabbyUrenda.