TBS Contributor and NXFM Breakfast Personality, Sophie Tiller chats to Channel 7 Football Commentator and Journalist Sam Lane about working in a male dominated industry and how to find positives in negative feedback.
As a woman working in a very male dominated industry, how did you learn to assert yourself in a positive way and not come across as ‘aggressive’ or ’emotional?’
Despite the gender imbalance in the field, it’s been something of a mantra for me to think of myself as a professional first and foremost. If being a woman around so many men was always front of mind, I think I’d risk excluding, or alienating, a lot of people (men, mainly!). That would really defeat the point. In my ideal professional world, everyone would begin on an equal footing: gender, and what we’d describe now as ‘bias’, would be non-factors. Diversity would rule!
I love my job…as we all do, if not, we wouldn’t take the money, but sometimes the pressure is so intense. Do you sometimes think you’ll throw in the towel and go work at Sportsgirl?
Thankfully I’m positive by nature, so professional setbacks haven’t ever got me down for long before transforming into some kind of motivating force! But naturally there are days, maybe even sequences of days if I’m honest, where I’ve thought: work could really be so much easier and less complicated. At those times I tend to imagine disappearing overseas, dying my hair pink and throwing my phone away. Thankfully, though, I take a decent amount of time off once footy ends these days. So the intensity and commitment it requires to cover the game properly for the best part of every year is eventually balanced out.
“Don’t sit on the fence, luke warm is vomitus” is advice I’ve been given. What’s your filter for ‘likeability?’ For example, when your contemplating content, what’s the question you ask yourself to establish you have an opinion without alienating people?
My default reference point as a journo is: what does this mean, what do I think?
Often, given the cacophony of noise around footy, it can be challenging to form an authentic view without influence. In order to do that, I find it helps to consume the relevant information at hand but then push it aside and see what comes to mind.
How do you find positives in feedback that may not be desirable- either from an audience or colleagues?
No one I’ve met yet enjoys negative feedback. But it’s a fact of life, particularly in this industry, and I’m pleased to say I’ve genuinely found helpful ways to deal with it!
Years ago now, in the very early days of me beginning on television, I found myself looking at a fan forum kind of website that had a thread devoted to critiquing me. Gobsmacked by this, I read every line and a lot of it was horrible – judgments based on my appearance, mostly. It really did rattle me, so I raised it with my dad who has been in the broadcasting game as long as I’ve been alive. I’ll never forget how firm he was that day. He asked me who had written the stuff (these were anonymous contributors), and said: you’ve got the choice to go back and keep reading that kind of thing there, or you can decide never to look at it again. I chose the latter. It was liberating and I haven’t deviated. Criticism is as important as praise. Possibly even more so. But it has to be constructive. I’ve learnt who to listen to: a handful of bosses and key work contacts, mentors and my best friends…and sometimes, just myself!