Women’s History Month: WABC Sports Anchor Laura Behnke Talks Challenges and Thrills of Covering Sports
Added by Gina Sorce on March 4, 2013.
Everyday this month, Double G Sports will be featuring interviews from prominent women in the sports industry as our way of celebrating Women’s History Month. This project is in its 2nd year. Today we feature WABC weekend sports anchor, Laura Behnke.
WABC sports anchor Laura Behnke has witnessed a lot throughout her fast-paced career. Prior to joining WABC, Behnke was the weekend sports anchor at NBC Bay Area in San Francisco, where she had the opportunity to cover the most memorable event of her career: the 2010 San Francisco Giants’ trolley parade following their World Series victory over the Texas Rangers.
Behnke covering a baseball game in Baltimore.
“I was our reporter on the ground at the midpoint of the parade, and it was my job to try to get interviews with the players as they came past on their trolleys,” she recalled. “It seemed like a lost cause because the guys were inside the trolleys, and the trolleys never stopped. So I figured if they couldn’t come to me, I would go to them!”
Behnke was determined to get the most captivating live coverage of the parade and decided to take matters into her own hands. She proceeded to jump on the moving trolleys, which were elevated significantly from the ground, in an attempt to get the attention of the champions. And yes, this was all caught on camera.
“I got about ten interviews or so that way,” Behnke said. “The players didn’t even seem to notice that I was hanging of their trolleys as I was asking questions, though a few did reach down to help me up!”
The producers were thrilled; they complimented Behnke on her vigorous determination to get the job done and said it was some of the most entertaining live TV they had ever been a part of.
“It’s always important, not only to do your job, but to have fun in the process!” Behnke said. “I will never forget that day.”
The sports journalism environment is unpredictable, to say the least. Sports are a prized form of entertainment and have become a great distraction from the stresses of daily life. This is what Behnke does for a living–combine her love of sports and her love of telling a story into a profession.
Telling a story- that’s what drew Behnke to the fast-paced world of sports journalism in the first place.
“I originally started out as a theatre major at the University of Wisconsin, but decided after my freshman year that it wasn’t the life for me,” Behnke said.
Although she wasn’t sure which career path she wanted to take, an opportunity Behnke couldn’t resist presented itself. Behnke worked as a runner for ABC Sports during live coverage of a Badger football game, where she assisted the sideline reporter. After spending a few hours on the field, experiencing the thrill of live television, Behnke knew where envisioned herself, and that was sports broadcasting.
“I left the game that night, called my parents and declared, “I’m going to be a sports reporter!”
Behnke graduated from the University of Wisconsin and earned her Journalism Bachelor of Arts, with a focus on both print and broadcast journalism. Although Behnke knew she wanted to be on camera, she studied print journalism as well because she believes the two skills go hand-in-hand.
“You can be comfortable and personable on camera, but if you’re not saying anything of interest or that’s well composed, you’re not going to succeed,” she said.
Behnke doing live coverage at Madison Square Garden.
Although Behnke has what some may define as a “dream job”, Behnke has a different perspective on her success. In an industry that places emphasis on competitiveness, it’s hard for anyone to succeed; however, Behnke recognizes that women wanting to emerge into the field face unique challenges. Throughout her career, Behnke has been continuously proving herself to those who refer to her as the “sports girl.”
“Unfortunately, it’s still common for people to think I don’t know much, if anything, about sports simply because I’m not a man,” she said.
Behnke finds support from other females in the industry and especially admires Michelle Tafoya, Robin Roberts, and Suzy Kolber for maintaining strength and perseverance in an industry where fame and exposure could change a person drastically. Behnke believes these women remain true to themselves while putting in the dedication that results in credibility and respect.
For those aspiring to enter the sports industry, Behnke offers this advice, regardless of gender:
“Do not be afraid of a lot of hard work. This business is so far from easy, not only when it comes to breaking in, but also sustaining a career. The only way to succeed is by going above and beyond with your time, dedication, and worth ethic. Even then there will be major disappointments, but if you love what you’re doing and have a true passion for the work, you’ll get through it.”