MONROVIA, Montserrado – One of the biggest names in sports journalism in Liberia is a woman – Martina Brooks.
Her rise to this level of prominence is even more remarkable given that women account for no more than 16% of all journalists in Liberia, according to an adviser with the Liberia Media Development program.
In the niche world that is sports journalism, that number gets even lower. In fact, Brooks bills herself as Liberia’s “only consistent female sports writer” and at one point was the only female member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia, or SWAL.
In an interview with The Bush Chicken, Brooks talked about life as a female sports journalist and discussed some of the challenges she has faced in her career.
She ventured into journalism in 2005 when she took up an internship at UNMIL Radio, where Brooks was trained to present and produce radio programs. At the end of her internship, she received offers from other media outlets, but chose to remain at UNMIL Radio.
“I chose to stay on and expand on what I already knew,” Brooks said. “Getting accepted in a man’s field was difficult, but I kept pushing and finally got accepted by my male colleagues, who saw me as their partner, and fortunately for me, I started getting all of the necessary support from my male colleagues.”
At UNMIL Radio, she transitioned into producing for a sports program called ‘Europe League Round Up,’ where she previewed happenings in the various European football leagues.
Brooks’ passion for sports led her push to report on events from the field. She has now built an impressive repertoire, having covered events ranging from Liberia Football Association league games, the National County Sports Meets, the Liberia Marathon, and athletics competitions.
Her dedication to the craft eventually caught the attention of her male colleagues and Brooks was named as SWAL’s most improved sports journalist in 2011. She capitalized on that recognition and became the first elected female Vice President of SWAL in December 2012.
As she has gotten to play a larger role within SWAL, Brooks has used her influence to turn the group, which previously consisted of only men, into a more gender-sensitive organization. As a result, women are gradually getting involved in reporting sports. Brooks is no longer the only woman in the group.
Despite her success, Brooks, who is a mother, said one of the major challenges she has is balancing her work and home lives.
“Whether or not you have a family, the long and demanding work shifts in sports journalism [already] makes it hard to live a normal life,” Martina explained. “I was always missing out on some personal special events because I was always at work.”
She added, “Even if you [aren’t working] a shift, you’d just be handed another task. This lifestyle becomes very tiring, not to mention if there are kids to think about.”
Featured photo courtesy of Martina Brooks