Amanda Davies is at the top of her game - sports anchor for CNN worldwide, London Olympics host, Sochi host, World Cup in Rio host; the list goes on. Although not an elite athlete herself, I decided to put Amanda on the cover of this issue and to profile her because sport is about more than just the team
or the athletes: in sport - and especially in womens sport - the media play a huge and increasingly important role.
As such, Amanda brings a wealth of experience and insight to sport that I value, especially as we talk about the ‘Holy Grail’ of more coverage of
women’s sport and what can be done to change and improve this.
Amanda’s love for sport and journalism came from her father whom she clearly still adores and who has been a role model to her. She talks with such
fondness of her memories of being sneaked into football stadiums where he was commentating, watching him prepare and lug large amounts of equipment
around, through to being picked up from school by him and going straight to the studio where he was doing the news and she would sit and do her homework.
“I’m lucky to be close to my dad,” she says smiling about all those adventures.
I spent the day with Amanda at CNN, following her around, observing her at work and talking about various things throughout the day. That, I believe
makes this a unique article, as it tells about the person, the passion, the story and the private, personal moments. Three key things stood out for
me and personified the day I spent with Amanda.
First, Amanda is passionate about sport - and it’s not just about the score lines, it’s about the stories and the people. It’s the world she lives
in and wants to be in - and she has got to where she is because she has earned her stripes the painful way. Being an Oxford graduate and winning prizes
in journalism didn’t stop her from beginning at the bottom as a runner. Amanda comments on hitting this reality that “...it’s hard when you go to Oxford
and get told you are the best and then you end up doing photocopying. You are the lowest of the low and your degree means nothing.”
From making tea to serving soup, doing photocopying or whatever is needed (including ordering and serving breakfast for twenty at 3am) is not glamorous
or fun - but she did this and more in the pursuit of knowledge and learning. Doing extra shifts for a minimal £60, losing friends and having very little
social life was all part of the price while she was learning and looking for those breaks.
Hard work paid off and in a whirlwind (albeit one where you bang on every door) Amanda went from runner to editorial to on the road producer for the
World Cup 2006 as the youngest producer for Sky Sports news - and then as a presenter with the BBC, which she acknowledges was a big punt on the part
of the BBC, but it paid off. The interesting thing is that at no point does Amanda talk about being a woman or the challenges faced as a woman in sport
or in the media, except when I ask her. She says about her career progression that “there was no ‘being a woman thing’: you got it right or you got
it wrong and when you got it wrong….wow wee…!”
This for me is then the first of the three key things that make Amanda so successful: she has worked incredibly hard and in all areas to get where
she is - and she has done so with a passion that is contagious. The second is very closely connected to her work’s journey and is made clear by a couple
of passing comments, as well as by observing her throughout the day. From her very first day Amanda made sure that she was nice to everyone above and
below her, valuing their roles and learning from them. As I observe her interacting with cameramen, studio staff, make up artists, media teams and
stars she is the same with everyone…she makes them feel that they matter, that she appreciates them and that in that moment they have her complete
I watched, for example, as she did the live sports news worldwide from the back of the studio - and when the news was finished, she could have exited
through a door that would have taken her to her desk close by. Instead she took the long route through the studio and talked to the cameraman and into
the control room, thanked and chatted to the team and then went back to her desk. It’s these sorts of things that make the support team walk through
fire for someone - and it demonstrates how grounded she is.
However, Amanda is also a working mother who travels the world and faces competing life and time demands. So as a woman and a mother - like so many
other women - she wrestles with the work/life balance debate and her passion for her work. As she says: “For many, sport is a stepping stone to business
or ‘real’ news, but I don’t see it like that. I genuinely love sport and the emotion of it.” Amanda is very thoughtful: this is clearly a subject close
to the mark for her - but she wants to talk about it. “I love being a mum. It’s really hard though being a working mother, and I’m not sure I’ve got
it right: I’m full of all the working mum guilt,” she admits.
She does go away a great deal, but modern technology makes connecting with home so much easier and lessens the pain of being away. However, Amanda
is also very clear on all the traps of being away, such as “not throwing all the rules out when you are home”, and she is always keen to learn and
work at being a great mum. “I hope I’m doing the right thing,” she says as we finish the conversation about motherhood and work. For me her openness
and the way she is prepared to talk about this subject speaks volumes about Amanda and who she is. Apart from all this, Amanda Davies is a passionate
sports anchor, brilliant at her job and despite her position, knows where she has come from and the work she has put in to get there - as well as valuing
those around her and connecting with them.
A string of accolades and achievements behind her and big opportunities ahead of her have not stopped her being able to remain genuine and real. She
has achieved what she has because of what and who she is. This for me is what sets Amanda apart from so many and has made it a privilege to get to
Editors note: CNN allowed us complete access to both the building and the personnel for the day, nothing was out of bounds. Their desire to encourage
female journalists, as well as their desire to be transparent, is a huge credit to them and we hugely appreciate all they did.
Photo: Milton Boyne