When I opened Twitter this morning and started scrolling, I have to be honest; I was shocked.
We’ve all seen the reports this week stating that “ESPN would be laying off hundreds of staffers,” but I never would have imagined one of them being Claire Smith. In all, ESPN laid off 300 staffers and decided to not fill 200 open positions, according to a report, 500 jobs in all, citing pandemic loses.
Smith is a trailblazer for so many women in sports journalism. For me, as a Black woman, she sits atop the throne.
The first time I met Smith, I was writing about her MLB Hall of Fame induction for the annual Associated Press Sports Editors paper. During my freshman year of college, I learned about her, but this was the first time diving into her career.
That conversation is still one of the most important ones of my short career.
Smith’s aura is extremely warm and welcoming. Since that initial story, we’ve had numerous talks. I profiled her a year later after she officially received the 2017 J.G.Taylor Spink Award, making her the first woman enshrined in the writer’s wing of baseball’s hall of fame. A few months later, I ran into her while covering the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Every time she asks: “How are things going?” or “Reach out if you need anything.”
My response is always “Thank you,” and a burning question about her life and career. She has been through it all.
And, hint: she has a great viewpoint on so many things. That’s why I value her opinion.
In every networking setting we’ve been in, she has always introduced me to her colleagues. And checks in to congratulate me on stories I’ve written or a new opportunity.
We all drop those on updates on Twitter, ha.
“Personal News: .......”
She got her start in journalism as a Temple University student at a Bucks County, Pa. paper. She eventually left the paper because her boss didn’t believe women should be covering sports.
This was the late 1970s but it’s still a sentiment held by some in the media and fans today. The difference now is that fewer people are prone to ignore that kind of behavior.
She became the first woman to have an MLB team beat, covering the New York Yankees, initially for the Hartford Courant and then for The New York Times. She has been shattering the glass ceiling ever since.
She was once physically removed from the San Diego Padres clubhouse during the 1984 National League Championship Series because she was a woman. She still persevered and completed her assignment that day, however the incident led to new commissioner Peter Ueberroth mandating equal access to the clubhouse for men and women.
Smith has a calmness about her that is unique. Whether it’s speaking on her admiration for Jackie Robinson, the player and activist, or just the overall drawbacks of working in baseball media, she always gives a positive spin on challenging situations.
She has always been a champion for women in sports journalism mentoring many of us as we enter the business.
Even when speaking on her own career’s highs and lows, she never harvests any level of resentment toward anyone. She echoes giving grace to yourself, which is essential for women in this space.
The relationship building that she has been able to do within the media space and the players and managers she has covered is second to none.
Everyone speaks so highly of her and I too hold those same feelings.
She is a friend and mentor, and I’m sad to see someone like her derailed in this way. She has been an inspiration to us all. I’m so thankful for her and I know she will continue to make an impact on this industry for years to come for whichever news outlet is smart enough to hire her.