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A Look at Sports with The GIST Co-Founder Roslyn McLarty

Hi, meet Roslyn! Roslyn is originally from Ottawa, Canada but currently lives in Toronto, where she has for the past five years. She has a background in business and, for a while, worked in the typical corporate finance setting. However, during her time in that environment, she realized how much of a connector sports could be yet found the male-dominated industry often inaccessible to women. Living in a sports-oriented city like Toronto, she often felt that sports media representation either did not reflect its fans’ diversity or was inaccessible to potential new fans. This inspired Roslyn to start The Gist two years ago with her two co-founders. The Gist has reached great success and since then led the founding team to be on this year’s Forbes’ 30 under 30 in media list. 

Her Campus: How has coverage of female sports changed since you were a child? Do you feel that it is more inclusive?

Roslyn McLarty: I think that it definitely has come a long way since I was a child. For me growing up, sports were a really big part of my life - I played competitive sports. I think as you’re growing up, you don’t really notice how male-dominated sports are and can be. Then, as you get older, you may start to pick up on little hints, like when you look at the TV and see all men on a sports panel. In the sports industry traditionally, whether you’re an athlete, sports journalist, or businessperson there have been fewer opportunities or less lucrative opportunities for women in sports, and as a result, fewer women pursuing long-term careers in sports. That’s probably not something that I was fully consciously aware of at the time but is something that still probably had an impact on me. Maybe that’s why I didn’t continue to pursue the sports I was playing long-term. These days, to me it feels like we really have come a long way, and there has been a lot more conversation around women’s coverage in sports, pay equity, and women pursuing sports careers. In fact, viewers are really demanding it and showing there is a desire for more women’s sports. In 2020, the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) was up 500% in viewership, and the WNBA finals viewership was up 27% while the NBA was down 69%. These stats show that women’s sports are growing really quickly. There also has been a ton of great conversation and activism around pay equity with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team and with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. Overall, people are really starting to advocate for more equity and inclusivity, whether that’s for female athletes, women in sports media, coaches/referees, business executives, or female fans. I think it’s incredible how far sports have come, but there is still a lot of work to do to dismantle the patriarchal structures that still exist in the industry. 

HC: When envisioning the newsletter, what components did you think were most important to include for your audience?

RM: Good question. What we’re trying to do with The Gist from a fan perspective is to make sports accessible for someone who doesn’t identify with the current sports media offerings. It can sometimes feel like traditional sports media is created by and for an avid, male sports fan, so with our newsletter, we are trying to make it for someone who may not identify as a passionate sports fan but wants to be part of the community and conversation. With the newsletter, some of the main things we focus on are the curation and contextualization of sports. So rather than a reader having to go digging to figure out the most important things that are going on in sports right now, we take the top five stories that you need to know, break them down, and explain why they’re a big deal. Another important aspect of the newsletter is providing that female voice and perspective that is missing in sports. We try to make it as fun and relatable for the reader as possible, so it feels like the information is coming from your witty, sports-obsessed best friend. We also aim to provide that female perspective on items that traditional sports media might not necessarily cover or emphasize like the progress being made in women’s sports, issues that are unique for female athletes, and pay equity. It’s also super important for us that we put both female and male sports on the same pedestal by having them in one place rather than treating female sports news as a separate category from male sports news. The most recent additional focus for us has been an emphasis on local sports news.  Starting a year ago, we’ve started rolling out different regional sports newsletters because people like knowing what’s going on with their local sports team y and feel more connected to their own community. 

HC: I noticed that on your site, most of your articles have hyperlinks attached to videos and other media; how did you come up with this concept?

RM: I think the idea with that goes back to curating what’s most important and really sticking to the concept of giving you ‘the gist’, making sure you could read it in five minutes or under. With that said we did want to allow the opportunity for our readers to dive deeper into the things they’re most interested in. Since we are a smaller company and we can’t provide all of the in-depth coverage for all the sports, we just link it to other outlets who we think are doing a good job of covering those things. For some of our readers, we are the first sports news outlet that they follow so we like to meet them where they are at in their sports fan journey by starting with giving them ‘the gist’ and then allowing them to grow at their own pace by providing them with opportunities to learn more where they want to. 

HC: How has your deepened understanding of sports affected your social and/or professional life? 

RM: It’s interesting for me because I’ve always identified as a casual fan. It’s almost hard to compare since I somewhat left that world where being a sports fan could have been useful for relationship building or finding common ground in a professional setting. But I have heard from friends who read The Gist that it’s helped them in all kinds of settings, whether it’s bonding with family or connecting with colleagues. Personally, working at The Gist has definitely deepened my knowledge of sports and in a similar way, it brings me closer to my team. It’s also an interest I share with my significant other and watching and talking about sports is definitely something we enjoy doing together. I’m not necessarily a typical sports fan since it’s so central to my work, but I have noticed the positive change it brought in my life. I think it’s really special how everyone can come together over sports regardless of our differences. 

HC: Where do you hope to see sports journalism in five to ten years? 

RM: I would hope to see more representation in sports journalism and across the sports industry at large so that everyone can feel like sports is for them. Right now, only 14% of sports journalists are women which shows that we have a long way to go. I’m really hoping the industry will make room for diversity and embrace it as a way to grow. That way, everybody wins. 

HC: If someone wanted to get involved or learn more about The Gist, how should they go about doing that? 

RM: They can sign up for our newsletter by going to thegistsports.com. We are on Instagram and Twitter @thegistusa (for American sports news) or @thegistnews.ca (for Canadian sports news). We are on Tik Tok as well under the handle @thegistsports and we also have a podcast called The Gist of It, which is available on Spotify.  

Tahjanee Givens is a current freshman at Wake Forest University where she hopes to major in politics and international affairs with a minor in German. She is from North Carolina but enjoys traveling and learning about social movements.
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