An Expert Interview on Women in Sport

An expert interview with Emma Middleton, a journalist focused on women in sport. Led by Athlete in Residence Rosie Viva.

As part of our athlete-in-residence series, we are highlighting key topics at the intersection of movement, health, and wellness to cultivate important discussions among Team Pruzan. Earlier this month, our current athlete-in-residence, Rosie Viva, sat down with Emma Middleton, who works for The News Movement and specializes in covering stories about and around women in sport.

Emma holds a Master's in Broadcast Journalism and has been a sports fan all her life. She has participated in a wide variety of sports and exercise herself, which led her to a career blending sports and media to cover incredibly important stories of often under-represented groups of people within the sports media landscape.

In this discussion, Rosie and Emma talked about the importance of increasing visibility for women in sports, the intricacies of a career in media, and the positive impact that regular exercise and movement have on mental and physical health when juggling the many responsibilities of life.

Emma Middleton: I'm Emma. I'm 26 years young, should I say? And I'm a journalist specializing in sport, particularly women's sport. In my spare time, you'll probably find me doing sport or watching sport, so I'm kind of just living and breathing it.

Rosie Viva: I think it's rare to know someone who's a journalist. I think it's quite a cool job to have, and also maybe quite loving and centric. So I feel very lucky that we met the way we did. And I just wanted to find out how you got into that. How did your journey into your current career go?

Emma Middleton: I'd always been fascinated by the whole media world, and obviously, I'd always loved my sport as well. So I went to London for a Master's in Broadcast Journalism, and that kind of just reaffirmed to me how much I loved it and wanted to get involved with this world. So I joined a community radio station in South London called Riverside when I was doing my Master's, and did their sports show on Saturdays while I was doing my Master's degree. This was a sort of voluntary thing, and that was great fun. It taught me a lot. I produced the show.

Straight after my Master's, I went to TalkSport, and I did a year as an assistant producer on their weekend programs and live sport programs. That was my first proper newsroom experience, which was a bit of a whirlwind, but you kind of have to learn through doing in this world. So I was very grateful to get to cut my teeth there. Then, I was very lucky to be approached by The News Movement, who really wanted to commit to their women's sport reporting, and they asked if I fancied coming over and joining them. At the time, it was a total startup with very few journalists on board. I joined three years ago, and it's been really cool to see this company grow from a very small team to a global organization catering to Gen Z audiences on social media. I'm very lucky that I get to lead on our women's sports content, but I also do day-to-day news reporting as well. It's a busy job, but it's super fun.

Rosie Viva: Having spoken to a lot of women who have shared their stories about sport and fitness, is there anyone's story, in particular, you feel we should all be more familiar with?

Emma Middleton: I've spoken to so many brilliant people, but Amy Lasu, who I actually spoke to right at the beginning when I started at The News Movement, is the captain of South Sudan's women's football team. Her story is really cool, and I'd love more people to know about these kinds of stories. It's a real example of the struggle of women to do sport in other regions of the world. We kind of take for granted the fact that we can just join a local football team if we want to. Amy told me about the challenges she faced, including the gender roles in South Sudan, where not many women can play football because they are expected to do housework or cleaning once they're married. If you're playing football in the national team, you can't get married. Her career would end right there.

Image sourced from CCPA

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Rosie Viva: How do you find the representation of women's sports stories in the media? Do you find you have to really seek it out?

Emma Middleton: I've grown up with sport. I live and breathe sport. I watched sport when I was younger, so I was always biased towards consuming more sport than probably most people would. The problem is, for people that don't seek it out, it's very difficult to find. I'm not saying that's not changing, because it is, particularly in the past couple of years. England winning the Women's Euros was a huge moment and seemed to be a catalyst for a lot of change. But if you look at traditional newspapers, it's still largely male sports being reported on the back pages.

I think social media is doing a good job now. There are some really cool accounts on Instagram that I follow, like The Female Athlete Project, which highlight stories of female athletes. What's nice now is that you can create your social feeds to make sure you are seeing the news that you care about.

Image sourced from The Female Athlete Project

Rosie Viva: Who have you come away from an interview feeling most inspired by and why?

Emma Middleton: There was one interview that I walked away from, and I was like, wow. It kind of changed my thinking in a lot of ways, and that was with Caster Semenya. If you don't know her story, she's a double Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion in the 800 meters. For her whole career, she's been fighting to run because people believe she shouldn't be running in the female category due to her being born with a difference in sex development (DSD), which means she has internal testes and higher levels of testosterone. Her fight to compete in the female category despite this was incredible. No matter what your opinions are about her competing, the fact that for more than 10 years, the whole world has been questioning her identity and her ability to channel those negative comments and not let them affect her is amazing. I recommend people watch that interview on YouTube for more detail about her story. It's truly inspiring.

Rosie Viva: What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to become a journalist?

Emma Middleton: If you have a passion, absolutely go for it, and be curious about listening to other people. Talk to as many people as you can. Networking is incredibly important. Keep the contacts and numbers of people so that when opportunities come up or you need help with something, you can reach out to them. Take people for as many coffees as you can!

Rosie Viva: You mentioned earlier that when you're not at work, you can be found doing sports. During your journey with exercise and sport, what has been a moment where you've felt most proud of yourself, and what's been your greatest achievement in that journey?

Emma Middleton: I have tried everything just because I enjoy it so much. I include sport and exercise in that because I love going to the gym, and my new thing is lifting weights. I keep rediscovering things that I really enjoy, whether that be fitness classes, training for different events, and just giving things a go.

Last year, I did the London Classics, which includes the London Marathon, the Ride London (a 100-mile bike ride), and the Serpentine Swim in Hyde Park. Completing these events and earning the London Classics medal was special for me. I signed up thinking, Emma, you've really done it this time. But I managed to juggle everything with friends, relationships, and work. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of not having time to train or do sport, but I always find time because it's such an important part of who I am. I like having goals to meet.

Rosie Viva: Working in sports journalism, especially covering female sports, how has that career impacted your relationship with exercise?

Emma Middleton: If anything, it has just affirmed my love for sport and exercise. Every time I go to an event or interview a female athlete, I feel like an excited kid. I love listening to their journey in sport. With my own exercise, even if it's just half an hour a day, even if it's walking to work or swimming at 6 am, I make sure it happens. For me, it's essential for my mental health.

Rosie Viva: Very inspiring how you manage it all! My last question: I would love to hear your favorite running route in London.

Emma Middleton: One would be Parkland Walk, which goes from Finsbury Park all the way to Alexandra Palace in North London. It's an old railway line, and I love running there because it takes you off the main roads. Another favorite is Hampstead Heath, where I feel like I discover a new path every time. It's safe, there are many people around, and if you love hills, Hampstead Heath is perfect.

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