Journalists need to be as hard-hitting with women’s sport as men’s and stop patronising sportswomen with ‘fluffy’ coverage, a UTS workshop has been told.

Sydney Morning Herald sports writer Sarah Keoghan said a lack of women reporters covering sport and trivial questioning by male reporters undermined the credibility of women athletes.

“Men get asked the hard questions,” she said.  “What happened there? What’s up with that? While female teams get asked about preparation, how the games are going… [they] deserve to be asked the same questions.

“No one asks the hard stuff, no one writes it, so I do.”

Despite sometimes being the “only woman in a group of 17 men” in the press pack, and chosen as the default roster for a woman’s sports game, Keoghan is passionate about what she does.

Speaking to current and prospective students at a journalism workshop on the UTS campus, she added: “Female athletes go through hell and back, and I feel like they deserve just as much coverage as the men.”

Born and raised in the Sutherland Shire, Keoghan didn’t have much of a media background. Her father was a postman, her mother a nurse. She grew up in a town where staying was the default. Sarah recalls her childhood fondly: “Growing up we played rugby league, we loved it. I’ve always loved sport.”

No one asks the hard stuff, no one writes it, so I do.

As a UTS student Keoghan spent a year writing to every news organisation before landing an editorial assistant position at The Daily Telegraph; working her way up from her first job title, ‘coffee girl’. And, not long after graduating, was taken on as a cadet at the Herald, where she joined the sports desk.

In her role as a journalist she began to notice the stark difference between men and women’s sports reporting. She classifies it as “fluffy coverage”; the instinct of those in the room to shy away from the hard questions and count triviality as serious questioning. Sarah faces that challenge head-on.

Recently, she won the Judy Dunbar Media Award for Best Overall Coverage of netball in 2021, which she also attributed to asking “the hard questions of netball”.

She speaks of female players as role models for many young girls;

“Role models can still have opinions,” Keoghan said leaning back into her chair.

“People are reading about your athletes… then maybe they’ll take their kids to a game, and then they’ll become members, which is great for the sponsors… I really believe that [female sport coverage] is so important.”

She added: “It just has to be exciting, it just has to be interesting, it has to be news… we’re slowly getting there.”