Fox's Chris Field says proving her credibility was her toughest battle.
By SHARON GINN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 9, 2001
When Chris Field arrived at WTVT-Ch. 13 as a reporter more than three years ago, she was the only female sportscaster in the Tampa Bay area. And with Ch. 28's Sage Steele taking a job at Fox Sports Net, that again is the case.
But Field, 34, said she no longer feels like a novelty, and that is a big relief.
A former news reporter and anchor, Field had dabbled in sports before landing the job at Fox 13 in November 1997. And though she said, "I just had a smile on my face that first year," one of the first things she noticed was how many people paid attention to her slipups.
"(Viewers) watch closely for mistakes," she said. "I work very hard to get things right. I double-, triple-check everything. ... That's the reality."
It's the reality, she said, of being a female sportscaster. Though the flip side is she knows there are people rooting for her simply because she is a woman, she also knows there always will be a few waiting to see her fail. Her job has been to win over those who fall in between.
People in this market take their sports seriously, Field said, "and credibility is the most important thing."
"You don't want people to focus on what you're wearing," Field said. "You want them to hear what you're saying. That's the best compliment I can get: If someone compliments my storytelling, my highlights -- not the highlights in my hair -- or my writing."
A four-year basketball starter at Hanover College, Field was a news anchor in the Florence, Ala.; Johnson City, Tenn.; and Greensboro, N.C., markets. In Tennessee she produced and hosted the East Tennessee State men's basketball show. In North Carolina, when a sports story became big enough for the news side, she usually was the one to handle it.
Rather than pursue news jobs in Seattle or San Antonio, Field went after Ch. 13's sports opening and hasn't looked back.
"I think she is doing a great job," Ch. 13 news director Phillip Metlin said. "She was a very good reporter when she started out. The transition into sports reporting and anchoring was a natural for her, especially considering her background."
In addition to her weekday reporting duties, Field writes and delivers weekend sportscasts. For a time, Steele had similar duties at Ch. 28, but she now serves as Fox Sports Net's central Florida reporter. (Steele still appears on Ch. 28 on Sundays, but her association with the station will end following the Super Bowl.)
With the networks looking to add more women sportscasters, local talent tends to get snapped up quickly. But though Field said she has received a few inquiries about the status of her contract, she said she is settled into life in St. Petersburg.
Field said she is happy working at a station where there is more time dedicated to sports, increasingly rare in this market, and where diversity is appreciated. WTVT has a history of hiring female sportscasters, including Fox Sports' Pam Oliver, who worked in Tampa in the early 1990s.
"In sports, I think there is a mind-set of, "This is the way we've always done it,' " Field said. "There are times I think we (women) see things differently."
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