THE Sunday Herald’s Natasha Woods has been described as “rarity in journalism – a woman chief sports writer”, according to the Sports Journalists’ Association, which has found that less than ten per cent of British sports journalists are women.
Even though the editors of The Sun, the Sunday Mirror, the Sunday Telegraph and the London Evening Standard are all women (and The Scotsman, The Daily Express, Independent and Independent on Sunday have all had women editors in their time), there has yet to be a woman sports editor of a national newspaper in Britain.
According to a survey conducted by the SJA, at this year’s football World Cup, there was a solitary woman journalist accredited to write for a British paper. Yet according to the BBC, 50 per cent of its audience for the matches was female.
It is 12 years since Woods switched from being a news and business writer to sport, full-time. She believes she was fortunate to have an editor who saw the opportunity to do something different, and, more significantly, a chief football writer at The Scotsman, where she then worked, who was open-minded and supportive.
After starting her career as a teenage trainee on the Lynn News in Norfolk, she has “gradually drifted up the A1”, joining the Newcastle Journal, Scotsman and then the Sunday Times Scotland.
Woods joined the Sunday Herald six years ago.
In a questionnaire, she is asked what her most memorable/enjoyable assignments have been. She replies: “Most memorable, for all the wrong reasons, were the shambolic Atlanta Olympics, but it was an experience which gave me the confidence to know I could handle just about anything, because everything was against you – the time difference and the shocking media arrangements, to name just a couple.”
She adds: “The most enjoyable were probably the Athens Olympics because I, like many other people, didn’t expect much of the Greek organisers, and the Games were fantastic. The night Kelly Holmes and the sprint relay boys won gold was simply sensational.”
To the question, ‘Have you encountered any particular problems or barriers to you working in a male-dominated sporting world?’, she responds: “Honestly, none at all.
“A few jokes, but you’d have to be pretty thin-skinned to be offended. I do remember doing a post match at Starks Park in Kirkcaldy years ago after a Rangers’ game and Ally McCoist came out to speak to the press with a towel wrapped around his waist. Predictably, it fell/was tugged off in an effort to embarrass me. But I’ve seen bigger – with apologies to the charming Mr McCoist.”
To the question, ‘Which colleagues or managers have been most influential or helpful in your career, and how?’, she replies: “Lots, but two spring to mind. First, Hugh Keevins, now of the Daily Record and Radio Clyde. He was the chief football writer at The Scotsman when I made my move across to the sports desk.
“Basically, I was plonked in front of his desk and he was told I was the paper’s new football writer, despite the fact I had no experience in that particular field. But he was, and is, a true gent. There were no issues about my gender, or, indeed, the fact I was English, to boot. He was an enormous support and it is a friendship I will always cherish.
“Secondly, my first sports editor at the Sunday Herald. David Dick now earns his crust at The Age in Melbourne, but he recruited me, inspired me and always pushed everyone on the desk to produce the best section we could. And he always stood his round at the bar.”