By Lisa N. Iorio
only 24 years old, Shalise Manza Young doesn't consider herself an easily
surprised person. "I guess when a former Red Sox player thinks it's cute to
drop his towel in front of you," she said, "there's not much to be surprised
However, one thing Manza Young finds shocking is that she only encounters a few other female sports writers in her travels. She also feels that she seems to be the toughest one, which to her signals that things might not change anytime soon.
"I can't even remember seeing another minority female. Though she's not the only one, I have always admired ESPN's Robin Roberts."
Manza Young is part of the still slowly growing group of women sports reporters. She is currently working at Rhode Island's Providence Journal covering everything from the Red Sox and Patriots to high school sports. Her current focus is covering soccer and she doesn't feel being female has effected her work.
"I get paid to tell people what happened if they couldn't be at a game (or even if they could) and that's how I hope my pieces come across, but I honestly don't think being a woman has influenced that."
Being biracial, however, is something Manza Young feels has shaped her life. Her father, Rich, is Italian and her mother, Lois, is African-American. "I have begun to identify more and more with my black heritage as I get older, and I think when people look at me they see a black woman," Manza Young said. "As a journalist, being a young black woman is a positive when you are interviewing other young black athletes, who are very used to seeing older white men all the time."
As a youngster growing up in Pawtucket, R.I. with her parents and sister, Manza Young's father told her that he could see her on television delivering the news, and something about that sounded good to her. However, upon entering high school and participating on the track and cross country teams, Manza Young shifted her career desires to sports reporting.
In Tolman High School, she spotted a sign for a program called "Minorities in the Media," and applied for the opportunity to work with the Journal. The idea, she explained, was that the students would intern at the newspaper, and if the staff liked their progress throughout college they would have jobs after graduation.
"We'd have a job and they'd add to the number of minorities in the newsroom. I told them right off I wanted to be a sportswriter and they thought it was crazy that a 17-year-old would know what she wanted with the rest of her life."
Gordon Smith, then the program's overseer, took an interest in Manza Young's writing and handed in a first-person story she had done on hurdling to former sports editor Dave Bloss. "Without touching so much as a period in it, Dave put it on the cover of the Sunday sports section and I was a published writer." Bloss became a crucial part of Manza Young's development and eventually viewed her as another one of his reporters.
After high school, Manza Young headed to Syracuse University to participate in its extensive journalism program. She continued to work for the Journal each summer and after graduation took her first job in the newsroom where it all began. "Up until I got married, I was the kid," said Manza Young. "Now I'm the old married lady, which I think is funny."
The newsroom, however, is what she describes as a friendly place where no one has ever been condescending or doubtful of her abilities. "I had one difficult experience with discrimination but not how you might think," said Manza Young. "One subject in particular thought I was too young to be covering his school. There have been a few times people ask if I'm some sort of apprentice. I guess because of my age it's an innocent question."
If anything, Manza Young finds advantages to being a woman in the sports writing field. "Men tend to open up more honestly with a woman. I'm not a psychologist, but I'd guess it has something to do with their mothers being the person they often trust the most. There have been several times I've heard other reporters complaining about how rude or uncooperative an athlete is, and I've never had a problem with those people."
Still, Manza Young is sometimes conflicted about her career choice and wonders if it has any relevance. "In sports writing, the only way to advance generally is to cover professional sports, but is seems sometimes like they're all greedy and self-centered, and I'm not sure I want to cover that on a day to day basis.
" I really enjoy covering high school and college athletes because they're going for goals and still playing for the enjoyment and most of them like getting the media attention."
Despite her reservations, she's not ready for a career change just yet. Still, Manza Young is keeping herself open to future possibilities. She would someday like to write a column or perhaps write for a sports magazine like ESPN or Sports Illustrated. And since she graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism there is always the thought of being on television.
Now wouldn't that make her father proud.