This month marks one year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, leaving many lost opportunities in its wake, especially for students looking to network and find their way in the sports media industry.
To help the cause, CBC Sports held its first CBC Sports U event with around 1,000 registrants, where four separate panels discussed topics of representation, women challenging the industry, the intersection of music and sports, as well as breaking into the business.
People from all ends of the world tuned in to learn from industry leaders like Monika Platek, CBC Sports' senior producer of social media.
"The beauty of it and the magic of it, our reach was global but it was Canadian-created," Platek said. "We see it as a success because it was our very first year. We're hoping this will be a legacy event that we could have annually at CBC Sports. I'm hearing from so many students that they learned so much today and it inspired really important conversations about inclusion and representation and challenges that people face in sports media."
"We really wanted to present this as something that put the power back in the students' hands or the viewers hands, where they could actually feel like they're being listened to and their questions were really being answered and I think we achieved that."
The first panel, 'If You See It, You Can Be It: Why Representation In Sports Matters,' consisted of Shireen Ahmed, Renee Hess, Fitriya Mohamed and Kayla Alexander.
The panel sparked conversations about empowerment of women and the BIPOC community. Discussion consisted of the product of women's sports, the fight for gender and racial equality, and investing in women's sports.
"Women's labour isn't valued," said Ahmed, a sports activist with a focus on women in sports. "We boast some of the best athletes in the world in these sports but we don't have a domestic league? There's a lot that needs to happen on various levels."
How women are challenging sports media industry
The second panel, 'Under Pressure: How Women are Challenging the Sports Media Industry,' consisted of Tara Slone, Ellen Hyslop, Meghan Chayka and Kayla Grey.
The group covered a multitude of topics, from holding men accountable in their stand against the hate women receive in sports, the hate they themselves receive on social media and where things could change to improve representation.
Grey, a television anchor for TSN, touched upon the issue of a lack of women in primary industry positions and the effect it has on organizational structure.
"One of the things that keeps showing up for me as a woman, but also as a black woman, is the piece of ownership — and we just don't have that," Grey said. "You talk about being performative, the easiest thing to do is to put a woman on a panel or to put a woman on television.
"The hardest thing is ... who's sitting at the table when it comes to figuring out what type of programming we're watching [and] who's making the hiring decisions? It's not to diminish what we do, but for myself, I know I'm not in a position to hire anybody. To me, that's how you shift the conversation from a generational standpoint of 'what is the pipeline actually looking like?'"
The third panel, 'Music and Sports: A Winning Combination,' consisted of Adam Burchill, Eric Radford, Angela Gladue, Exmiranda and Everton Lewis Jr.
This panel dissected the deep connection between sports and music, whether it be hip-hop and basketball, the side of putting together performances for sports events and how to harness social media in a way that can favour you as an artist or content creator.
Breaking into sports industry
The fourth and final panel, 'Breaking Into The Sports Biz When You're Stuck at Home,' consisted of Hailey Salvian, Kishan Mistry and William Lou.
Featuring a collection of young professionals, this panel appeared to effectively show students how close they are to making a career out of sports media, but it also provided useful advice on such things as breaking through a small market, finding valuable work in those markets and how to get noticed.
Salvian, who covers the Calgary Flames for The Athletic, spoke about the importance of producing unique content.
"I think one of the best ways that you can stand out is to just do things differently," Salvian said. "You have to find a way to produce content that's going to set you apart and show people why they should go to you over somebody else.
"If you're looking to get more exposure, sometimes it's not about writing as many pieces you can, it's about finding ways to do pieces that are different that nobody else has."
Replays of the event will be available in the coming days on the CBC Sports YouTube channel.