Women in the NFL: Josina Anderson, Emmy-Award Winning ESPN Reporter

There are more women holding prominent positions in sports today than ever before — from the sidelines to the negotiating table. Get to know Josina Anderson in her interview with Levo below, and let her inspire you to tackle new challenges in your own career.

Name: Josina Anderson
Job: Reporter at ESPN
City: Chicago

A former track and field sprinter at the University of North Carolina, where she earned a degree in exercise and sports science, Anderson was chock full of journalism internship experience before breaking into the big leagues. But instead of becoming a frustrated intern, Anderson became a real student of the business. When her name was called, she was ready. She landed her first post-college job at the CBS affiliate in Coos Bay, Ore., as a sports anchor/reporter in 2000. "I was one of the few people to graduate and go right into a TV job without having to wait," Anderson recalled.

Ever the hungry strategist, Anderson eyed her next move. But it wasn’t easy. She explained: "I had sent out so many tapes and resumes. I kept coming in second or third for jobs I wanted. One day I had an epiphany. I thought, 'I'm waiting for these people to say yes to me, but I have to say yes to myself.' After a year in Oregon, I left even though I didn't have another job lined up. I went where I wanted to go, which was home. I told myself, I'll make it happen."

When Anderson returned to D.C., she was back on the grind. To make ends meet, she lived at home and slept on her parents' couch. And she used her track background to work as a personal trainer. "I had my clients come to the track and I would charge anywhere from $50 to $100 an hour to train them,” she said. "Then I'd be a reporter at night."

In 2003, Anderson auditioned for a job at FOX 31 in Denver. She didn't get it, but two years later the station called Anderson with an offer and she took it. For six years Anderson was a weekend sports co-anchor, reporter, and producer in the Mile-High city. She also reported for Showtime’s Inside the NFL program during her final year at FOX 31. "ESPN saw me on that show and I was breaking a lot of news out of Denver," she said. "That's what led me to my job at ESPN in 2011."

Levo: Football season is kicking off. What does that entail for you in terms of your schedule and responsibilities?
Josina Anderson: I handle midweek assignments for SportsCenter, which includes previewing a game that I will cover that week, and I work for Sunday NFL Countdown, a pregame show. After the game I’m covering is over, I do post-game coverage. Then the week kind of repeats itself. I also break NFL news and do sit-down interviews. Starting this season, I’ll be on ESPN’s NFL Insiders at least once a week.

The road hasn't always been smooth for you. What has been your biggest professional obstacle?
JA: When I left Oregon, I didn’t think it would take me four years to get back to an affiliate station. It was frustrating. I told myself, If I don’t get a job at an affiliate before the end of my fourth year in D.C., I’m going to leave television and go into sports psychology. Then one Sunday, as I’m leaving church, a woman drives up beside me while I was walking to my car. She got out of her car and delivered a message. She said, "God told me to tell you that your job is coming." I had never seen this woman before. She got back in her car and drove off. Six months later, I was in the gym, stretching out my client’s hamstrings when I got the call from FOX in Denver. Pay attention to signs that reaffirm that you are on your path. It may take a long time to get to where you want to go. Stick with it. Just when you think you’re done with your dream, it can come true.

Being on television every week is huge, but what has been your career-defining moment?
JA: When I was in Denver [in 2006], I got a call from a source about Ricky Williams, a premiere running back with the Miami Dolphins. I learned that he was going to be suspended for a year after testing positive for marijuana use. I gave that story to my station, but because the story was Miami based it wasn’t a priority. I think it was the second-to-last story we aired during that hour. I knew it was a big story though. Then the sports director of the Miami Herald verified the news. He put a blurb about it in the paper and gave me credit. ESPN called me to put me on their morning show, Cold Pizza, to talk about the suspension. The story just blew up from there. I saw what that little piece of news did. I really started dedicating myself to being an insider and cultivating sources.

What advice would you give young women who want to work in the NFL?
JA: Information is your biggest commodity. If you have the information, the connections, and the access, then you'll be employed. There are men who don’t look like GQ cover boys and there are women who don't look like runway models on TV. But because they have the information, they are successful. Looks fade. Information is valuable. Think of it like a touchdown. And it's not about recycling information that is already out there. For me, my goal is to give you information that you aren’t going to get anywhere else.

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