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Years after she broke barriers as a Black woman in the world of sports journalism, Claire Smith is still opening doors for those following in her footsteps.
Temple University on Wednesday announced its new sports media center will be named after Smith, who graduated from the school in 1979 and went on to become the first (and only) woman to win the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Career Excellence Award. In 2017, she was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
For Victoria Lucas, a 2021 Temple graduate now working for Fox43 in York, Pa., the announcement brought a sense of pride and joy.
“It means a lot … Even if [I] didn’t go to Temple, it would still mean a lot. Because the people we look up to, and are of color, they didn’t have all of the same opportunities when they were growing up that I do,” Lucas said. “It makes you optimistic for the future.”
Klein College is now one of the only U.S. schools to offer a certificate in sports media, according to its announcement. At the Claire Smith Center for Sports Media, the focus will be on “breaking down barriers of gender and race in sports media, as Smith herself did as a journalist for ESPN, The New York Times and other newspapers,” the university said.
Smith studied journalism at Temple and went on to work for the Bucks County Courier and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin after graduating. She later went on to become the first woman to get a full-time beat covering baseball when she began covering the New York Yankees for the Hartford Courant in 1982.
There are more Black women in sports media than there were when Smith made her mark on the beat, but people trying to break into the industry still face some of the same prejudices.
Alexis Beckett, a senior at Temple, said she wants to see more progress. “I’m happy to see so many more Black individuals, especially women, on sports television than when I was younger, but I would love to see more. I want it to become a normal occurrence and not something that people are surprised to see.”
Klein College has been recognized in recent years as a leader on this issue. In 2018, it won the Equity and Diversity Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
“This announcement shows off the diversity that Temple has always had, and it shows what the industry is becoming itself given that it’s named after not just a woman, but a Black woman,” said Courtney Murphy, a 2021 Temple grad (and former Billy Penn intern) now working for WTAJ in Altoona, Pa. “Because when you think of sports, you usually think of the white male.”
Though still very low, the proportion of sports reporters who are women has grown slightly in recent years, from 12% in 2018 to 17% this year, according to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). More than three-quarters of sports reporters in the U.S. were white.
“The story of our media is that it remains predominantly white and male — and that’s one narrative that must continue to change at a more rapid pace,” wrote TIDES director Richard E. Lapchick.
Smith is joining faculty at Temple’s Klein College of Media and Communications to serve as a co-director of the center, alongside John DiCarlo, Temple’s director of student media. They’ll be joined by former Sixers play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff as associate director.
Smith, a Bucks County native who graduated from Neshaminy High School, called the center in her name a homecoming, and thanked Klein College Dean David Boardman for the opportunity.
“My heart’s never strayed far from the diamond in North Philadelphia that is @TempleUniv,” Smith posted on Twitter. “Now I have the honor of coming home to work alongside @jdicarlo @marczumoff and all the talents at @TUKleincollege. What a dream come true!”