SMU’s First Female Sports Writer Shares Her Story

September 28, 2011 by · Comments Off 


By Meghan Sikkel

A page from Crumpler’s scrapbook displays clips she wrote as an SMU sports writer in 1950. (Photo by Meghan Sikkel)

It was the fall of 1950, and 17-year-old Jeanette Howeth Crumpler was starting her sophomore year at SMU.

After attending North Texas State College for a year, the journalism major transferred to SMU to write for the university’s student newspaper, known at the time as The SMU Campus.

When she joined the newspaper staff, the independent blonde-haired, blue-eyed student knew exactly what she wanted to do: She wanted to write feature stories about “girly” topics, like gardening and fashion, and she wanted to write about women, their lives and their social breakthroughs.

So, when one of the newspaper’s editors, whom Crumpler remembers as “Buzz,” told her she was going to be writing about women’s sports, her reaction was not quite what he had hoped for.

“I laughed,” she said. “I didn’t want to write about sports.”

No matter how much Crumpler, now 78, begged to write about anything other than sports, Buzz refused to compromise.

Female sports were offered solely to intramural sorority teams and included golf, tennis and field hockey. The teams were new to SMU, and Buzz thought it would be “a unique thing” for a woman to write about them, Crumpler said.

So, with some words of encouragement from Buzz, who often reminded her that she was doing something “groundbreaking,” and a list of about 30 sporty verbs, like “trounced” and “swept,” which served as a reference for the less-than-experienced sports reporter, Crumpler became the first female sports writer at SMU.

“I didn’t know what in the world I was doing,” she said. “I just focused on learning those verbs.”

She wrote a weekly column called “Gals in Sports,” as well as a piece on SMU professors titled “Tops in My Book.” But then, family problems intervened, and Crumpler had to withdraw from SMU in December that same year. She left in part to take care of her 90-year-old grandmother, whom Crumpler said had “more or less raised” her.

She added that she was never able to finish her journalism degree. After her sophomore semester at SMU, Crumpler moved to Houston and married. She had two sons, who are both deceased.

Today, Crumpler sits in the delightfully cluttered living room of the Lakewood home she has lived in for the past 60 years. Flowers and brightly colored vases line the windows, books fill the overflowing bookshelves and historic photos of Dallas landmarks crowd the walls.

As she flips through a bursting scrapbook, loose magazine articles and newspaper clips, many of which are about the local “celebrity,” spill out onto the floor.

“For some reason, people keep writing about me,” Crumpler said. “I don’t think I’m interesting at all.”

A page from Crumpler’s scrapbook displays clips she wrote as an SMU sports writer in 1950. (Photo by Meghan Sikkel)

Some would beg to differ.

Dr. Camille Kraeplin, associate professor of journalism at SMU and researcher in female issues, said the journalism field has not always been so “female-friendly.”

According to Kraeplin, until the 1960s, old-time newsrooms had the reputation of being like old boys’ networks with very rough atmospheres, so it was difficult for women to break into any type of journalism, especially in sports.

However, as an interest in media and media-related occupations became increasingly prevalent among women, Kraeplin said females began to work their way into the “very male-dominated field.”

Greater accessibility to sports and, thus, increased female athletic participation, further propelled women into the world of sports journalism, Kraeplin said.

“There are some remarkable examples of women who have broken through the barriers,” she said.

Aside from holding the title of SMU’s first female sports writer, Crumpler is a history buff and gardening enthusiast and has worked as an author, a freelance writer, a publicist and an interpreter for the deaf. She has written six books, two church histories and countless articles on topics ranging from the history of Dallas to what kind of tomatoes grow best in the Dallas-Forth Worth area.

Crumpler, who served on the National Gardening Association Test Panel for several years, is perhaps best known today for her work as “The Tomato Lady,” a title she received for her vast knowledge of tomato growing.

After thumbing through pages of gardening articles and family photos, Crumpler finally finds the page she has been searching for.

In the middle of four newspaper clippings from The SMU Campus, a handwritten note says, “I was the first female sports writer at SMU 1950.”

According to Crumpler, female staff members were rare at that time, regardless of whether or not they were writing about sports. In fact, as far as Crumpler could tell, she was the only female on the entire staff.

“I’m supposing there surely would have been others [females] on the staff, but I never saw any,” Crumpler said. “It was such a fairly new field for females to be writing on the paper at all.”

Today, the situation is much different. Of the two sports editors for The Daily Campus, both of them are female.

SMU senior E’Lyn Taylor, sports editor for The Daily Campus, thinks it’s an “honor” and a “privilege” to hold the historically male-occupied title.

“The field of journalism is evolving,” Taylor said. “Women are starting to get the respect they deserve in this profession.”

Like Crumpler, Taylor has also broken a glass ceiling at SMU. She is the university’s first African American sports editor.

“We hear about women breaking barriers all the time,” she said. “I think it’s great and inspiring that barriers still can be broken in this century.”

While she believes there are still some barriers to be broken, Crumpler says it is “wonderful” to know women today have a better range than they did in the ‘50s.

“I’m big on personal rights, period, for everybody,” Crumpler said. “I believe it is wonderful to give people, anybody, those opportunities.”

Associate sports editor Erica Peñuñuri, a junior at SMU, said she doesn’t think twice about being a female sports writer.

“You either know your sports or you don’t,” Peñuñuri said. “It’s about who knows what, no matter the gender.”

Although sports journalism positions continue to be largely occupied by men, Peñuñuri said the number of female sports writers is increasing because, “like [in] most careers today, gender isn’t an issue.”

“I think the fact that both sports editors at SMU are females says a lot about the field of journalism today,” she said.

Sports anchor and host for Dallas-Fort Worth television station TXA21 Gina Miller shares that opinion.

“I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal to be a woman doing this job anymore,” Miller, who also co-hosts CBS 11 Sports’ pre- and post-game shows for the Dallas Mavericks, Cowboys and Stars, said.

When Miller, 37, began her sports reporting career in Guam 15 years ago, she was the island’s only female sports reporter. She was also the first woman in Knoxville, Tenn. to report on sports.

“It was really sort of an envelope-pushing thing,” she said.

Now, things are different, Miller said. Although she continues to be one of the few women in the locker room, she says the respect of her colleagues, as well as of athletes, demonstrates how far women have come in the sports journalism field.

“There has been such growth in this industry,” Miller said. “All the guys in this market know all of the women in the market. They know that we’re professional and that we are there to do our job.”

Although she no longer follows SMU sports, Crumpler was “delighted” to learn both sports editors for The Daily Campus are female.

“It’s high time,” she said.

Dallas Mayoral Candidates Debate Issues at SMU

April 19, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Praveen Sathianathan

Video By Bridget Bennett

Education, the city’s budget, the Trinity River project and the development of South Dallas were the focus of the Dallas mayoral race’s first televised debate Tuesday night.

Former Police Chief David Kunkle, Council member Ron Natinsky, businessman Edward Okpa and former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings took part in the one-hour debate at SMU’s Hughes-Trigg Theater.

Mayoral Candidates prepares for questions at the Dallas Mayoral Debate at SMU on Tuesday, April 21st at SMU. (PHOTO BY MEGHAN GARLICH / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Moderated by CBS 11 anchor Doug Dunbar, candidates were asked questions by a panel of journalists including Jessica Huseman, politics editor at The Daily Campus.

The debate began with candidates being asked what city services should be cut to help balance the budget in lieu of a shortfall that could range from $40 to $100 million.

Rawlings said besides crime prevention and economic development “everything else is on the table.”

“Got to make sure that everything is on the board, but lets not cut across the board,” Rawlings said. “We got to do it strategically. What are the major initiatives we got to face? Get the city council unified and then get the city manager to do her job.”

Kunkle said the city should start the budget process earlier than they do.

“I don’t think there is anything easy to cut in the budget anymore,” Kunkle said. “We can’t make cuts without affecting critical city services.”

He said it was important to look at “what business the city should be in.”

Kunkle said he would like to, as much as possible, “maintain core city services: police, fire, city enforcement and streets,” but said it would be hard with another difficult budget year.

Natinsky agreed saying it is a tough budget year, but added that it’s not like the last few Dallas has faced. Citing projections of the increase in sales tax and other activities in the city, Natinsky eluded to signs that there maybe a recovery.

“We have a good chance of coming very close to possibly balancing the budget, certainly without a tax increase or having to cut any essential services,” he said.

Okpa said if the city “regresses the budget by three percent we can easily fix the budget, but if we do it now, what about next year?” he asked.

He then suggested the city “take a critical view of the structural challenges of the budget.”

All candidates also expressed the need to improve Dallas schools.

Kunkle said the city needs to “continue to facilitate and help grow neighborhood after-school programs” and that it needs a stronger commitment from the business community.

Natinsky agreed with Kunkle on the importance of after school programs, but stressed Dallas’ “great history of public and private partnerships.” He suggested that parents need to be actively involved in the educational process.

He said without solving the problems of education, “we can’t deal with economic issues we are facing and we can’t continue to grow the city.”

Opa agreed with the necessity to get parents involved, and complimented the Dallas Independent School District on the good job it has already done.

“If I show you the school I went to in Nigeria, I think DISD is a heaven,” he said.

Rawlings said education was the most important issue Dallas faces for “we are educating our children and it’s our future.”

“Never be a great city without great public education,” he said. “Must do something structural and must do something sustainable.”

He said it was integral to work with other urban mayors in other parts of the state, energize non-profit organizations and those that want to lift the school system.

The candidates also focused on the development of south Dallas many times during the night. The issue is considered to be a hot topic, since the area lacks many of the amenities, such as restaurants and businesses, that are found in the northern parts of the city.

Social media also played a role in the debate as students and Dallas citizens could ask questions through Twitter or Facebook. According to Dunbar, one of the reoccurring themes was about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

A question from SMU Dedman I Senator Harvey Luna, on how to make Dallas “a more gay-friendly city” was selected and answered by the candidates. Praising the diversity found within the city, all the candidates agreed that Dallas’ LGBT community should have a place in the city.

Rawlings said: “We have the human capital, but for too long we’ve been divisive. We have African Americans, Hispanics and whites, we have gay and straight. That attitude is going to hinder that growth.

“Some of the greatest and most exciting ideas are coming from the GLBT community,” he said. “We have got to make sure they have a place at city hall, a place in business and a place socially in the framework and fabric of this city.”

The debate ended with closing statements from the candidates, which included their main goals for the city.

David Delafuente, president of the Texas College Democrats, said it was a great opportunity for SMU to host such an event.

“As an SMU student who lives in the City of Dallas in the southern sector, I felt that Mike Rawlings had the best vision for the neighborhood I come from and hope to go back to after I finish my education at SMU,” he said.

SMU junior Samira Abderahman said that she feels lucky to go to a school where the city’s mayor candidates come to speak to the community.

“I cant say now that I am not educated enough to vote,” she said. “This gave me an opportunity to deal with issues that citizens of Dallas need to know about.”

The debate was sponsored by The Daily Campus and CBS 11. A student steering committee, led by Huseman, helped organized the event, working on the logistics for two months. The other members of the committee were Chad Cohen, president of SMU College Rebuplicans, Adriana Martinez, opinions editor of The Daily Campus and Alex Ehmke, student body vice president elect.

Huseman said the debate has come a long way from where it started. She said she was talking to Delafuente about debates his organization has hosted and randomly came up with the idea for The Daily Campus to host the debate.

“Looking at it tonight, we had an hour of live television that went on without a hitch,” she said. “I thought it was infinitely more successful than what I first thought it would be.”