Laura VandeBerg stands in front of over 69,000 screaming fans every week. That dedication is attributed to only one reason: she is someone who loves the Hawkeyes and wants to tell their stories.
She has become a staple at Hawkeye games through her interviews, fashion, and passion.
However, even with her large presence, there is still a lot unknown about her to the public. Due to this, people make assumptions about what she’s like and how she acquired her job.
University of Iowa students seem to undermine her skills because she’s a woman in a primarily male field. They compliment her based on her looks and assume that’s why she got the job. They believe she received her job because of her relationship with a Hawkeye football player.
These kinds of assumptions are common with female sports reporters. According to the Women’s Media Center, the majority of reporters that cover sports are male. The women who do cover sports are objectified by viewers and not praised for their skill.
If you search “female sports reporters or anchors” on the internet, it results in entries of, “20 Hottest Female Reporters,” “The Most Stunning Female Sports Anchors” and “The 60 Sexiest Female Sports Reporters.”
VandeBerg said people will judge sports reporters on their appearance because it comes with the territory of broadcasting. No matter who someone is, they will be judged on how they look whether male or female, she said.
Ron Katz taught sports law at Santa Clara University Law School. He wrote about gender discrimination in sportscasting for Forbes.
“Sexiness has nothing to do and should have nothing to do with sportscasting, which requires sports knowledge, credibility, a good voice and the ability to speak in public,” according to Katz.
“The fact that females are being judged/categorized in this way, plus the paucity of female sportscasters (especially doing play-by-play for a major professional sport) clearly shows gender discrimination,” he added.
It’s well established that women face discrimination in their workplaces, and they face it in the newsroom as well. According to Women’s Media Center, only 37% of prime-time news broadcasts feature women as anchors.
Despite this discrimination, women still pursue their careers and work to fight discrimination in their own ways. For VandeBerg, she chooses not to look at the disadvantages she might face in her job.
“I choose to focus on my advantages and what I can do and do it to the best of my ability,” VandeBerg said in a follow-up email, “that’s my way of breaking down doors—rather than complaining about what I don’t have, I focus on working hard and being undeniable in my field.”
VandeBerg grew up being a Hawkeye fan. She received a degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism with a focus in broadcasting and sports. As a lifelong cheerleader, including being a member of the Hawkeye spirit squad, she loved being close to the action.
VandeBerg received the offer to be the Host of Hawkeye Sports in 2016. Matt VandeBerg proposed on the field during the Iowa State game. A video of the proposal gained a lot of popularity online.
A few radio shows interviewed her about the proposal, one of which was the Hawkeye Radio Network on the Game Day stage. Based on how she conducted herself during the interviews, she received the job offer VandeBerg said.
When she got the job, “the stars seemed to align,” she said.
Being the host of Hawkeye Sports is more work than people assume.
VandeBerg works with all 24 sports at the university. She does “in-game” hosting for nine sports where she interviews coaches and players during a sporting event. She does Facebook live interviews for sports that don’t easily incorporate in-game interaction.
She prepares for game days by reading about the team to keep up to date. She writes all her scripts and questions, which are subject to change minutes before she goes live.
Being flexible is a large part of her job, she said. Working with the schedules of student-athletes and coaches can result in last-minute changes.
The most important aspect of being a sports reporter is confidence, VandeBerg said. Being herself in front of the camera is important, but can be difficult due to jitters. It’s also important not to dwell on mistakes or slip-ups she said.
VandeBerg is a Hawkeye fan, a journalist, and a woman working to break down doors in her own way.
As another game day approaches, VandeBerg will be hard at work preparing. She will share parts of the process on her Instagram where followers can see her looking over notes, getting her hair done, and walking the Kinnick tunnel before the game.