After four months on the air, there is already a talent change at Atlanta’s FM sports talker, WZGC-FM/”92.9 The Game.”
No, the station isn’t in as bad a shape as their sister station down Route 41. In fact, the move was completely on the host’s volition. C.J. Simpson, one-third of The Game’s “Opening Drive” morning show with Rick Kamla and Randy Cross, is leaving Atlanta to become a studio host for Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA) broadcasts on Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
Simpson’s replacement? Another woman: Kristen Ledlow, who has been the Atlanta-based field reporter for Fox Sports’ NEXT website, formerly known as Scout.com.
This means the number of female on-air hosts at “The Game” remains at two, with Rachel Baribeau continuing to co-host the station’s “Game Time” afternoon drive show with Carl Dukes and Kordell Stewart.
It’s certainly rare for a sports radio station in any city, let alone a major market such as Atlanta, employ two female hosts full-time.
But believe it or not, these “Game” birds are not alone: before “The Game” signed on last fall to become Atlanta’s third all-sports station, Sandra Golden had been heard on the others: first on the WQXI/”790 The Zone” morning show for five years starting in 2004, and later joining WCNN/”680 The Fan” in the same daypart in 2011; she’s since transitioned to a new midday show, “The Front Row,” which kicked off just this month.
Which means there is at least one female voice on Atlanta sports radio for all but a couple of hours during the day.
And in a medium dominated by males – if you need any proof, Golden was the lone female that made the first-ever Talkers Magazine “Sports Radio Heavy Hundred” list last year - why not welcome more personalities of the female persuasion into the field?
On national sports radio networks, you can hear Amy Van Dyken co-hosting Fox Sports Radio’s weeknight program. The current lineup on ESPN Radio is virtually exclusively male, but in the past, Amy Lawrence was heard on their air; she now does weekends on the new CBS Sports Radio network, which actually has three female hosts on their roster: in addition to Lawrence, Dana Jacobson is one-third of their “TBD In The A.M.” morning show. Also, not long after WFAN/New York personality Marc Malusis started his Saturday morning program for CBSSR, they quietly added Sports Illustrated’s Maggie Gray as a co-host; the program is now known as “The Moose And Maggie Show.” Cute. In addition, NBC Sports Radio has given veteran Baltimore sports radio figure Anita Marks a show on weekends.
I must say it’s a good sign to have four female talents among two brand new national sports radio networks right out of the gate – of course, with CBS giving shows to three females, including one in the major daypart of morning drive, that to me is pretty damn impressive.
But as far as sports radio on a local scale is concerned, it really needs to get in touch with its feminine side.
On the Internet radio station that’s affiliated with this website, SportsRantz Radio, there are at least four or five female hosts at any given time, including Katy Mitchel from “The Rantin’ And Ravin’ Show,” Kristina Chambers from “Slicks And Sticks,” Amy Gist from “The Siren1363 Radio Show,” and Robyn Vandenberg from “The Sports Breakdown.”
Now, the point I’m about to make is not intended in any way to diss the aforementioned, or the radio station, or this website, or the man who makes this all possible, Anthony DiMoro.
But… It’s sad how no sports talk stations on terrestrial radio have hired four female on-air talents. Of course, we have one market, plus a new national network, that have three of them, so it’s progress. But shouldn’t we be at a point where there’s at least one female on-air host in several of the top major markets – and not just Internet radio?
And I’m not saying they should put them on the air, just to fulfill a quota, or we hear a female’s voice “for a change.” Of course, they should be qualified to do so – and I have no doubt there is no shortage of females that wouldn’t hesitate to seize that opportunity – why, just look at SportsRantz Radio.
Just last week, ESPN columnist Sarah Spain – who can also be heard daily on WMVP/”ESPN 1000″ in Chicago – published an article expressing her confoundment on the belief by many that women are just “incapable” of fulfilling many positions in sports media. In it, she featured a few tweets from Stephen “Steak” Shapiro, a radio host who thinks that “men simply do not want women as full-time sports radio hosts.”
By the way, “Steak” Shapiro has been doing radio for over fifteen years in the city of Atlanta – yes, that market with the rare existence (medium rare?) of three full-time female on-air sports radio hosts.
“Does [“Steak”] believe the chromosomal makeup of a person decides his or her ability to talk about people who make a living kicking, throwing, shooting or catching a ball?,” Spain wonders. “Your neighbor, Bill, who has never watched a football or baseball game in his life is not, in fact, more qualified to host a sports radio show than a sports-crazed woman with years of experience in the industry.
“There is nothing in the DNA of a woman that prevents her from understanding the Cover 2 or knowing which guy on the hometown squad should be batting cleanup.”
It’s encouraging to see that, when CBS Radio could have easily handed over C.J. Simpson’s vacant position to another guy – while keeping in mind that they’re equal opportunity employers – the end result is another woman in Kristen Ledlow waiting in the on-deck circle.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Ledlow told me, regarding the opportunity to work in a market where sports radio has shattered the glass ceiling. “Rachel [Baribeau] and I want to set the precedent for major markets hiring smart, funny, hard-working women in sports.”
Indeed, there is already a long list of women who meet all of those criteriae – many of them on television.
It shouldn’t be long before sports radio, locally and nationally, hires more females, thereby eradicating a stereotype that women in the business are “eye candy.”
In other words: if you’re not in front of a camera, your opinion and your talent should be just as valued as anyone else’s.
Hopefully, Atlanta will buck the trend – but at least for now, it’s a good sign that females are a force to be reckoned with in the medium.
Or, as Sarah Spain exclaimed to me: “I think that’s great… Good to see women are being given the same chances to excel there… Didn’t realize Atlanta was so evolved.”
The evolution continues.
(Sandra Golden did not respond to my request for comment; incidentally, at the time this post was published, she is scheduled to begin jury duty.)