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Greetings OC fam! We have a treat today, a video chat (with a transcript below) with veteran sportswriter Michelle Smith (San Francisco Chronicle, The Athletic, and others) about sports media, where we are in the progression of women's basketball, and yeah, our lives as women in a male-dominated business. We've been friends forever, have shared a lot of laughs, and the fates conspired to let us work together at espnW. We ran around Germany in 2011, covering the Women's World Cup (it was all good until that PK ending of doom for the U.S.)
Michelle's career has taken the trajectory of many: really good at what she does, but the stress of keeping a job in a decades-long grind of cutbacks and layoffs in sports media made things too hard.
She is now the director of communications for the Alameda County office of education, and still writing about the WNBA and PAC-12.
But she still has the fastball as a sports writer, and yep, she does her thing. Check out our discussion. And love to hear your thoughts at the end, or on @joannecgerstner.
Michelle Smith chat transcript
(note, this has been lightly edited for context and clarity. And yes, we said “you know” and “I mean" too much.)
Joanne C. Gerstner: There have been so many of us in the business that taken taken left turns and other things (in our careers). For those who might not know who you are, where you're at, how would you assess who you were as a sportswriter and who you are now in your other job? So what's the Tweet about Michelle Smith?
Michelle Smith: Oh God. So I was and still am deep in my heart and not so deep in my heart, the ink-stained wretch that I was when I began my career. Right? I am. My print journalism career is my identity. I have gravitated throughout my career toward women's sports coverage, which brought me a lot of traction, a lot of happiness, a lot of feeling good about the subjects I was covering, the athletes I was covering. But the business is difficult, and I needed to take the left turn. And Joanne, you said it. We all have to take those left turns, many of us do.
The business was difficult and so I made a decision to move my career in another direction into public education. And I don't regret it. But I miss our old life all the time. I am fully aware that I miss what we used to have and the way our times used to be. And maybe not the way that they are today. I am not unaware of that. But yeah, I am. I am. A journalist will always be, you know, it's just it's in the veins, man.
Joanne C. Gerstner: It is. You said something very interesting. When I started my career, I was specifically told by some people that were my mentors, not to do women's sports or, you know, do them, but don't make it my thing because it would limit my career. And I'm wondering, because you're in the Bay Area, you have had a lot of strong women coming out of there like Tara (VanDerveer). I mean, I just think I think there might be something more about where you were at that allowed you to build that platform than maybe me being in Detroit, where there was less opportunity to really carve out that nation. Or do you think at all about the situation, the time, the place affecting your ability to tell those stories about women's sports or was just because you were so good you brought it to life?
Michelle Smith: I mean, to be honest, I think it did limit my career and I and I and I made that choice like I don't want to. I don't want to say that it didn't. I have. I have a bucket list of things I've still never covered an Olympics, and everybody else I know has had a chance to go to the Olympic Games, right? And I've never been to the Olympics, and it was something that I always wanted to do. We had the wonderful opportunity, you and I, to be together at the Women's World Cup in 2011, which seems like a million years ago now. But that was a first of that kind of thing for my career. I had kids when I was fairly young. I had a husband in the business. I think all of those things contributed to limiting my career options because there were jobs that I wouldn't take, wouldn't apply for, I wasn't going to pick up and move out of town and leave my support system. There are all those things, and I think that covering women's sports to a degree limited the other things that I was able to do in my career.
It's a hard thing to hear. I don't know if I marginalize my career, but I definitely don't want to. In the big picture, as I look at that as I have, like 30 years looked back on, I want to acknowledge the reality that covering women's sports didn't allow me to elevate my brand, my name, my career. Maybe to the point that other people went or that other people got to. I felt like I did it. I felt like it did it well. I felt like I carved out a space for myself. I felt like I really enjoyed what I did. I got to travel. I got to go to Final Fours and travel on beats and do really cool things that I would never be sad about. But I think I made a career choice there. And to say that it didn't have any impact on the trajectory of my sports writing career is probably not real.
Joanne C. Gerstner: These women there will say this: they were women who were my mentors. You know, they had made it. And they're just like,' Look, we made deliberate choices not to actively write about women or cover women and the Olympics.' Obviously, they did it, but they were not pursuing Title IX things outside of context of an event. And they're like, the only way you're going to move up the ladder and get paid, get your name. You want to be covering Super Bowls and that you're at the Olympics and that you're now at the Stanley Cups to make your name. I think I was too young to fully understand what they were saying, but what I did realize, as my career progressed, was because I was usually the only woman everywhere I worked, or one of two that the women's issues seemed to fall on me. So like, Oh, well, you know, there's a female athlete, you cover it or there's a title nine thing you cover it or or I, you know, I was joking, I was on the emo beat, you know, like, ‘Oh, well, there is a sick high school athlete will send you because you're really good’, but talking to them and you know, it's like, ‘Oh, that's what they were talking about.’ Now I see it because there was nothing gender specific about what we were doing, but it's like it fell onto me and I thought, ‘Oh.’ But obviously with me covering the NBA and the rest, I got to dip back and forth. But I think that that is a decision that I don't think many men have to actively make now because they won't be put in that position of only covering women's stuff, usually number two. You know, we have to say what it is. Men will not get judged by what they cover because of their gender. Right?
Michelle Smith: Totally. In retrospect, it feels a little bit like high school in only this sense, like, ‘Where are you going? What are you wearing?’ And all of those things seem really important until the moment you graduate and then nobody cares anymore. Like when I look back at my career for 30 years, you know, I'm not without wishing that I could have gotten to cover an Olympics or whatever. But, 30 years later, it doesn't really matter. I've had a successful career. I've had a really rich career. I've gotten to do a lot of great things, even in the new, even in my new, you know, even after my career change at the age of forty eight or whatever it was, which was, you know, not an easy thing to do. And it had mostly not, and it had mostly to do with identity and shifting that and morning identity and all that. But you know, and the big picture, you know, I look at my resume and and say ‘I’d hire her’.
Joanne C. Gerstner: I'd hire you to wait a second. Wait, I did. I think these are all not small, but important, conversations I try to have with my (Michigan State) students. Like some things, you think that matter, you're collecting the lines (on your resume). What is your happiness? What are your priorities? At the end of the day, when you're left with it, do you want people who want you on that alone? You're at the Super Bowl? I mean, does that even matter compared to going to do other work? And obviously, it's hard to rationalize it when you're 22 and just want to move up and make it. But you know, I think these things have value and for you, the loss of identity, I think that's something a lot of us have had to reconcile with. More importantly, the context that you mentioned of the way things used to be. I think we're both in a very strange place; in that we're young enough to make a career shift into something else. But we're old enough to know how things used to be right. And that's kind of an interesting burden that I think only a very narrow slice have to carry. What do you miss the most and how have you now transitioned yourself into your new identity and find enjoyment in it?
Michelle Smith: What do we miss the most? I mean, I miss being at a big event that's got a lot of energy and a lot of my colleagues and a full press box and just sort of that the fun and the excitement and bang and sat out on deadline. That's a big deal. And, you know, like just those big events and even being lucky enough even once I made the career change to go to a few Final Fours in a row after that, when you know which is the big event and the courtside seat and the energy and all of that. But I miss seeing my colleagues. I miss interacting with people because as we well know, sports journalists are the smartest, weirdest, quirkiest people. But, you know, they are thoroughly the most interesting group of people and loyal group of people you can have as colleagues and friends, for the most part, right? And so I miss seeing them. I miss their, you know, I miss these awful, horrible jokes that, you know, go round in the press box that you would just be mortified if anybody heard you talk, right? I miss all of that sportswriter life. Then I just miss being at big events, like when I watch things happen on TV. I go, 'Ooh, I wish I was covering that. It would be fun to cover that'...(Like) South Carolina is playing UConn in the Bahamas, and I know some friends who are there covering. I really just miss sitting there and covering the events. You and I also know this part about it again, being in that small slice of time, you know? But, it's covering the event, watching the game, keeping play by play, keeping track of what's going on and not going, Oh, I missed that play because I was busy Tweeting about it…the whole thing is different. And so that just makes me sound old, frankly. But the whole thing is really just. So the things I miss about it are the people and the energy and all of those things. t It's also a lot of hard work now and these magical phones that we've got, you're never off work. You're never not expected to have something up on Twitter. If you find out about it, there's just no off switch. And so for these young journalists who are in this space to understand that there's no off switch for them, like. I don't know. It's, you know, it's difficult. I'm not sure I'd be, you know, I'm sure that if I was still doing it, I'd be grousing about it to no end. But that's OK. But there's no doubt that I'd be complaining to anyone who would listen about how my job looks great. But really, it sucks.
Joanne C. Gerstner: Well, I hate to say I think that is the eternal truth of any sports writer: no matter what the circumstances are, there will be complaining. So that's for sure. But that's the one thing I do see with our friends that are still in the business. It's like, yeah, that's great. They're doing well. But also, Oh my God, it's too much, and they're exhausted and there's no help, resources. Everything is so trimmed down. Then you're dealing with the public, good, bad or otherwise. They're supposed to be on a podcast and edit video. So, it's a lot. The people that do it very well have my respect and admiration because it is an amazing tightrope. Coming from the NBA perspective, the season's such a grind and then you throw in the COVID protocols on top of it, players that don't want to talk for different reasons. It's fascinating to me to see how things have changed. It's the same because, if you report stuff, you break news. I mean, that's a high, and that's the thing that really stuck in my head was when one of my friends who retired said, 'I'm going to miss the most is the adrenaline rush. I'm going to miss the adrenaline rush. I'm going to miss the feeling that, ‘Yeah, I nailed it.’ As you said, never anything I did after journalism never gave me that feeling like I was satisfied, those happy...'
Michelle Smith:You write a great game story and then after that you go to bed and you just lay there and you cannot sleep. Yeah. And your flight leaves in a few hours...
Joanne C. Gerstner: Should I even go to sleep? I have to get up in a few hours. Maybe I should watch Netflix or doomscroll....What I think is interesting is that people are so quick to say the media did this wrong and play gotcha. I don't think there's enough appreciation or understanding of how hard doing it right really is and how, as I explain to my students, I feel like sportswriters who are really good are like stand up comedians on improv night. They go up there in front of a crowd, just test out materials, either you land or you fail, but you own it. It's just you. It's you alone in front of everybody. Now with the ‘gotcha’ on social media, God forbid you do have a mistake in a running game or God forbid that you, you know, had a wifi issue, crash your laptop. By the grace of God, you got it up and there was something wrong. There's no appreciation for the stress that went into it. That's I guess where our jobs are. The most serious comment from Shelby Strother from the Detroit News was nobody wants to hear about the labor pains. They just want to see the pretty baby. So that's right. Absolutely true.
In terms of the evolution of women's sports, and I think you probably have one of the best handles on this in terms of perspective, a lot of us are talking about how there isn't enough progress. We're so much farther to go and we can name 15 examples from the abuse of coaches to the pay to the marketing. But I want to focus on the flip. I think we have come a long way and seen the Dawn Staley contract and seen the TV ratings and seeing people, you know, really taking a real interest in the WNBA. And then obviously seeing someone like Tara VanDerveer at Stanford, you know, you know, having an amazing career and having to build a legacy without being labeled as the women's coach. Everyone respects her, she is one of the best coaches in basketball, period.
How do you assess the good versus the bad? Are you half empty or half full for the glass?
Michelle Smith: It's all. Both things can be true at the same time. I think our I think part of the bad that we're seeing is also part of the good and the empowerment in these young field, female athletes to speak up about their experience and to be able to say out loud about the situations they're experiencing with coaching and not just assuming that they're, that they're just lucky to have a job....
And I think one of the biggest things is business. I think one of the biggest things is having - I know this is a Facebook platform, but let's talk. Twitter and Facebook have both decided that they're going to participate in airing WNBA games. It gives it a different platform, right? There's more games. There's more networks. You know, all of a sudden, ABC's back in the mix because they've got the business in the sponsors to back it up. You've got companies like Google, who've decided to get into women's sports in the WNBA. You have the NIL opportunities now for student athletes, which is, you know, you know, as an OG, I'm a little afraid, but I'm also but I also know what a tremendous opportunity it is for business to become further invested in female athletes. And so to me, that's the biggest part of the sea change is that it's become good business and it wasn't always like that. And and so, I think the bad is a reflection of the good and the empowerment of these female athletes. And then the fact that somebody finally figured out that women's sports is good business. I hope that, you know, I hope that that's a trajectory and not not a fad, right? Like, I hope it's not that people decided it's good business for a couple more years. But, the fact that they think it's good business. And I want to say this, right, not in spite of the WNBA players activism, but that that didn't scare anybody away.
Joanne C. Gerstner: Right, right, right. Yeah, because women that embrace their power are scary in our society. We can name 15 examples, but women that are athletic and of color, and maybe not straight - there's a lot of layers to this.... I think one of the things that has given me hope is the people that are involved now are involved for capitalistic reasons and not because it's a charity case. We're going to help the girls. It's not a charity case, right? It's not cause driven marketing. It's like, wait a second, if we can sell a bunch of Vandersloot jerseys. I want to be there and I want to sell it. Let's go. Or if we can sell a bunch of Megan Rapinoe gear and all these little boys in Omaha, Nebraska, want to buy it? Let's go. So I mean, reducing the veneer of the pink, as I call it, the pink haze, the pink glory off of it. Just, hey, guess what? It's good business, but I love that women's team sports are being embraced, and I think you've taken down the individual athletes. You know, I'm glad that you know the Serena's. The rest will get paid. But now that you can spread the money into a whole league and a whole team, it's going to lift everybody, not just superstars. I really think that people don't realize that it's this country, it's the United States, it's North America that's leaving this because we know South America, you know, still disrespects even their great soccer athletes. Europe's hit or miss, you know, and obviously other countries have religious or value based things going on that will stop women from being marquee athletes. But all the conditions are here right now for this to work. And man, I am just like, I can't believe it took this long, though. I mean, you know, we're almost 50 years into TItle IX and now we're just....
Michelle Smith: I know better than that now. Like, we wish it hadn't taken this long, but we are here. I can believe it took this long. I feel like I wish it wasn't like this. But I can believe it took this long. And then the conversations that are happening among the athletes. I mean, like, we talk about which athletes were uplifting. You know, I'll go back to the WNBA, as an example of a league that is predominantly a league of black women and the degree to which, you know, some of those voices now Renee Montgomery and A’ja Wilson, and being concerted about uplifting the voices of black women in that league that are that are powerful, have great stories to tell. And we're having those conversations like, I'm OK with the conversation about Sabrina Ionescu, if she gets too much attention in comparison to A'ja Wilson. I'm OK with that conversation because we're having it. Absolutely. I mean, right? I mean, those are not comfortable spaces. And I have, for one, had to learn how to get uncomfortable with things, and I'm comfortable with being uncomfortable. You know, I am. You know, I do very much feel like at this point, I am kind of an oddity in the space. There's a lot of things that I don't talk about because I think it's not my space anymore. Some of these issues are not my space anymore. I think it's a conversation. I think it's a conversation for people who are more in it than I am. I also sort of understand that, you know, I mean, my days as an influencer, or to the potential to be an influencer are way back there...I think I can be, I can be a wily veteran. I can be Bull Durham, in this scenario, I can be Kevin Costner. It's just a very interesting space to occupy. I will not lie, I feel like there's a little bit of time when this whole thing is just running past me, at a rate faster than I can catch up with it because I'm not in it every day anymore. That's the other part of, you know, doing what we do in these different spaces that we're doing them now is, I'm not in it every day anymore. I'm not in a space to break news. I do my freelance work for the PAC-12 or the WNBA. I write feature stories and telling stories and making sure that I'm shining spotlights on individual players and work and things like that. But I'm not breaking news. I'm not in that space anymore. ...there's just certain spaces I'm not in anymore. And so I will happily occupy the space that I occupy and watch it all get better and watch it all get more interesting and watch it all, get more attention and do it happily and say that hopefully somewhere in the beginning of all that, I played a part in helping it build up.
Joanne C. Gerstner: You absolutely did. I'm wondering, as media is a loaded word, because of how people define media, whether it's Joe Blow in his basement blogging versus the New York Times or is this TMZ versus a podcast, whatever. I'm wondering if the progress we're seeing in the rise of stature in the conversations about the roles women occupy in sports is ever truly going to take a real turn, into sports media, because we're I don't feel we're making progress. I really don't. In terms of overall sports media, I mean, we don't have as many people. We need women. We need to be in charge of things. We have very few women as sports editors. I know that's old school...the bluntness is the generation that should be in charge right now is us. We're all the ones that had to take a different path to make it. I can draw up a list right now, of 10 of us ,that would be amazing managers, columnists know however, you want to quantify it. We should still be in the game, but we're not in the game, which means our voice, our influence is not being felt the same way. And I've had this conversation with others. It's like, there's the oh, the OGS that are still in the game. And then there's the people that are in their 20s and 30s. But the gap between like 35 and 55...
Michelle Smith: That's been because all of us had to go make a living Joanne, because, you know, the bills, I mean. Right? That is the reality about sports media. I will say, if you were still talking about women's basketball, specifically women's basketball media, the reality is this: I can probably literally count on one hand the people who are making a full time living covering women's basketball. And literally, I mean, you know, you know, if I was rattling off names, Mechelle Voepel is still working full-time at ESPN. Doug Feinberg is the National AP women's basketball writer. Get me past that, and that's not talking about like a beat writer, an individual like, but in the big picture covering women's basketball. People can't make a living. So many people I know who are in that internet space or are working have other jobs, and they still pay their way to go, cover events, and they still are running their own blogs through their own sites and they've built up their own following. The landscape changed, right? Like, there's still newspaper beat writers. There's still somebody like Jeff Metcalfe in Arizona, who just retired, but who covered Arizona sports forever. And in Hartford, you're still going to have, you know, they're still going to cover UCONN. ...They're going to send somebody on the road and they're still going to travel or whatever. But in between? There's not a lot. And so that's the problem, particularly at the collegiate level, in a different way at the WNBA level, although folks are carving out their WNBA spaces in different ways, you've got that whole, the passionate WNBA, Twitter and those folks that have made a name for them, but they're not making a living at all - with a few exceptions. .. And you know, you hit a point in the middle of your career where you can't just do that anymore. Like you can't work freelance and wait by the mailbox for the check to show up or for it to show up in your direct deposit for something that you did two months ago. And you when you've got rent to pay, bills to pay and kids to put through college and all of those like real, real realities, right? So, a lot of us made turns because the business got too hard and it simply wasn't going to be a viable way to make a living. Women's sports, is still in my mind from a media perspective, not a viable way to make a living.
Joanne C. Gerstner: I agree. It was niche before. We'll just say it for major American media it was niche. And then tennis was eliminated. Golf's been eliminated. Women's sports has been eliminated, auto racing has been eliminated. I mean, look at all the things that have been peeled off and everything's been distilled down to the majors. You know, the pro sports. And then if there's an event in your town, maybe you cover that and then, you know, maybe a few big colleges and then high schools, and that's it. The rest of it's just been kind of farmed off. And that's the problem of, when you have conversations with people, 'Oh, the media doesn't care, they're not covering', it's like it's much more nuanced than that. We do care. We just don't have the bodies to do it or the budget to do it or the landscape to do it. And at some point something gave. And you're right, that's what gave in. Is that right? I can't defend it, but here we are.
Michelle Smith: ...When you're getting paid $75 a story. And you know, like, I'm not saying I’m not happy for writers to get their shots. I'm happy that we have outlets that are trying to invest and give young writers a chance and pay them something rather than asking them to work for free, or next to for free. I mean, I have a story about the NCAA - the NCAA for the love of Mike - who asked me to write a 2,000-word story for their Final Four program and offered me $200. The NCAA was like,’Oh.’ You know that's work, but it's what people consider as the value of the work, right? I mean, I may be headed off into a different place, but what I'm just saying is that right? Making a living covering for the most part, women's sports, is almost impossible. Unless you're doing something else, you've got some other irons in the fire, you've got a specific business relationship that's allowing you to do this. But social media is free, it's democratic as hell, and anybody who's interested can hop in and have a take and build a following and all of those things. It doesn't replace coverage. It's not the same. It's conversation, but it's not coverage, right?
Joanne C. Gerstner: Right. No, it's breadth, but it's not depth. And then there is a difference in the nuance and, you know, being with the team and covering them and getting to know that player, just being able to look at them and realize something's off. It's all those little nuances that we bring. So, what do you think is the next step? We've got money in the college game now. We have money in the college game now.
We're getting more men picking up coaching gigs left and right. WNBA...what do you see as the next step for obviously the women's basketball space? Are we kind of waiting for the next big jump up or do you think it's going to be more incremental spread out as we've been seeing?
Michelle Smith: I see the league, the WNBA in particular, wanting to make hiring women, wanting to make hiring former players now a priority. I think we're seeing that. Vickie Johnson, you know, Atlanta just hired a former player, a coach whose name at this moment in my head (Tanisha Wright) is just escaping me because again, I'm old...I think the WNBA is wanting to make space for its former players to play big roles. I mean, it'll be super interesting for me to see in the next couple of years. However, it comes out to see what roles Diana (Taurasi) and Sue (Bird) play in the league, whether they decide that they want to do it as owners or GM's, or whether they want, whether they don't want to do it. I mean, that'll be interesting to write, but you know, two of the most legendary players in the game who are about, you know, who are pretty close to their retirement, figuring out how they're going to be involved in the league. Like, I think that the WNBA is really prioritizing that.
I don't think, I don't see, the college game prioritizing that pretty much at all. I see the college game still being very much a product of who's going to get hired. I see some of the smaller schools, like the ones that are just outside of the big five, who are the ones who are taking chances on hiring new head coaches and people who haven't been hiring people, new faces and things like that. If you consider that, take it a chance. I mean, among the power five, I just don't see enough, I don't see enough risk taking, I don't see enough. I don't know somebody like Adia Barnes in Arizona. She was an alumna. She was the all-time leading scorer. She had been at Washington when Washington went to a final four. You know, like a deal. Barnes was a great hire. Was she a risky hire in the context of the job? I don't think she was. But has it worked out for them spectacularly? Absolutely. She's a name now. She's a voice. She's a voice that will help, you know, encourage other people to do something similar. I don't know. I just don't see the college game moving in that way. I see the WNBA moving that way. I don't see the collegiate game moving that way. I think there's money. We'll see how much it will be. And I don't think we'll see how much sort of power student athletes can amass in all of this and what degree they have the leverage to move a needle? I don't know. Yeah.
Joanne C. Gerstner: Well, I'm kind of with you two on the NIL, because my concern was I do have quite a few student athletes, male and female in my classes. I don't want them to feel they have to sell themselves inappropriately to get deals. So I'll say it like Barstool or some of the other, more nefarious outlets that are looking to sign people. It's like, 'Yeah, you're going to get a check. What are they asking you to do?' I mean, how far do you want to push this or what's the messaging? I don't see much guidance from athletic departments in telling them, 'Hey, this might seem really cool now when you're 19, but let's think about the big picture. Did you know? What did you sell your soul for?' But firstly, I also don't see the power structure within athletic departments, which we must fully say is predominantly male. And usually in the big schools, it's run by football and basketball, men's basketball. And the other thing too is, you know, schools are still have an SWA - a senior women's administrator is still selling the entire process of hiring these big things. So if you're saying that the women's athletics department is separate than the men's athletics department, and you're probably using a search firm for which it's already been rigged from the inside to some degree by the known candidates. It's like you can't get a different outcome if the algorithm is already static going in.
Michelle Smith: So I agree with you. And I also knew, and I worry, that I may have a very maternal worry for some of these kids, just in the sense that there aren't enough people to give you good guidance because nobody is good enough at this yet. Nobody's seen enough of that and experienced enough of it. And who's going to be able to give you really good guidance? They're going to be some athlete, some pretty high profile athletes, who will get good guidance about how to handle now. And then I think there's going to be some kids out there that are going to be flailing and make some not good decisions because they don't get good advice because there aren't enough people who know this well enough yet to be good sources of information for them,
Joanne C. Gerstner: There's so much they don't know, like, you have to pay taxes, you have to pay taxes. So at 19 years old or 20 years old or 21, you have to figure out quarterly tax payments to the IRS on that revenue, right? Really, you think? I mean, I'm just waiting two years from now to hear that the IRS is coming after somebody with full, you know, full bore for taxes like, and they will say 'Well, I didn't know - I was 19. I was in college. Why was I supposed to pay quarterly taxes on income, right?' Well. Right. No one told me. Well, guess what? It's going to come. So I'll wrap it up with this in terms of anything that you would like to do. I know you're happy with what you're doing now, but is there anything that you still have left that you really want to do before you say, you know, 'I'm cool, I'm done with this journalism thing.' A book in you or something?
Michelle Smith [00:32:38] There are probably a couple of books in me. I still would really love to do, and one thing I haven't completely written that off. I understand that that's when you're doing a different job that that's harder, you know, that's going to require a different level of maneuvering in your career life. I haven't completely written it off because I'd still love to do it at some point. I mean, Paris (Olympics) doesn't sound bad.
But yeah, I have a couple of books in me like, there are still some really good stories to tell. Yeah, I'm not done being a journalist yet, I, you know, but what's really been interesting is, you know, working in public education and this has been like the hardest.
It's just been the hardest 21 months of my career in just its own way because of the constant shifts in the, and I live in a place in the Bay Area, which has been probably much more compliant generally to masking and vaccine and testing and and all of those things that I know that other districts and other places around the country are experiencing a much higher level of resistance.
I think that we've gotten here in the Bay Area and in Alameda County. But the thing that it sort of illuminated for me is it's really brought inequity. And B, the students that have resources and students that don't have resources and how this has impacted them and. How those that don't have resources or good communications vehicles or whatever that this is really been sort of, without exaggerating, like life or death, right? Like, we're still trying to figure out how to get into some of our zip codes in some areas in Oakland and in other areas where there are large immigrant populations where the undocumented families don't want to come out of the woodwork to get a shot because they don't want their the most, their paperwork or their immigration status, and they're really fearful or we're not translating things into the right languages. There are all these different languages being spoken, and we're trying to get all this information out and we're not hitting the mark because we're not getting it to in the right languages, to the right communities, pockets of the community where this are life and death, where people were cupboards coming into a household where there's seven or eight people living and go running through the entire household and kids are being held out of school and things like it's this is serious business.
...So those are the things that have made this really, you know, that's why I'm sitting here on Thanksgiving week in my sweatshirt and I'm, you know, I'm chillin and I'm watching Gilmore Girls marathons and like, you know, because your brain needs a break from understanding how you know how critical this work is. And so, you know my journalism work, I love it. I'll never not love it. I think there's incredible nobility in telling stories of female athletes and helping to elevate women's sports, and I need to figure out how I can get some really specific language translations into a couple of neighborhoods in Oakland next week because we got to tell those parents to go get their kids back. And it's just completely opposite ends of the spectrum.
Joanne C. Gerstner: There's nothing like some life and death stuff to invade your life perspective right now. But the great thing, though, is and I think the things that people don't realize about journalists is that we do have skills, we're very good communicators. We know how to research, we know how to process information, we know how to reach audiences, we know how to ask questions to get the information we need. So all of that is helping you do this critical work that you're doing right now. I mean, yeah, I think you're exactly where you need to be right now with your skills. I mean, you're helping people.
Michelle Smith: Yeah, I feel like I am. Yeah. And then I campaigned for the other stuff. I campaigned for the old days. You know, I'll just sit on my porch and yell at children to get off my lawn and pine for the old days, right?
Joanne C. Gerstner: We'll set up a little altar to Trash-80s (old fashioned dinosaur laptops) and have a little seance. That's right. Hey, well, this was awesome. Thank you so much!