Leila Rahimi's layoff exposes an uncomfortable truth about Chicago sports media

There are few female sports journalists left on the city's airwaves.

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Where have all the women in Chicago sports media gone?

Don't get me wrong. Female journalists have never had a wealth of opportunity when it comes to the sports pages, radio booths and television stations in this city. 

But whatever representation women did scratch and claw for over recent years has been absolutely decimated by coronavirus and other personnel decisions.

That much was apparent after the popular Leila Rahimi lost her job at NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday afternoon as part of a nation-wide layoff by parent company Comcast.   

(Laurence Holmes and others were among those affected, as the Tribune's Phil Rosenthal reported,)

Rahimi was arguably the highest-profile woman in Chicago sports media before Tuesday, a designation that somehow spoke toward both her talent and the group's dwindling numbers. 

Rahimi worked well with Ozzie Guillen and Frank Thomas while talking baseball and ran a tight show. She also ingratiated herself to fans by being an entertaining and accommodating presence on social media and just a funny and down-to-earth person on radio hits with Holmes. 

Yet she was still out of a job as the sun came up this morning.

Rahimi joins a long list of women sports journalists in Chicago who have disappeared from the airwaves in recent years. 

  • CBS sports anchor Megan Mawicke was laid off in June and joined her family realty business in the north suburbs.

  • Julie DiCaro lost her night-time gig as well as her weekend show with Maggie Hendricks as part of The Score's cost cuts near the start of the pandemic. Neither Chicago sports talk station currently has any female on-air talent.

  • Kelly Crull and Siera Santos had to leave the market to get their next on-air gigs. (Crull in Atlanta, Santos in Phoenix.) 

  • Sarah Spain and Jen Lada moved up to the national stage with ESPN, Shae Peppler left the city with her husband Jordan Cornette and Peggy Kusinski is mostly running a good podcast with her son these days. 

So who does that leave? 

Well, there's ABC's Dionne Miller and WGN's Lauren Magiera as well as Marquee's newcomers: Taylor McGregor and Elise Menaker. 

Print is where the relative strength is at right now: The Tribune has Colleen Kane and Shannon Ryan while Madeline Kenney and Annie Costabile represent the Sun-Times.  The Tribune's Amanda Kaschube and The Athletic's Lauren Comitor are editors and keep their shops running.

But that's pretty much it. 

I get that it's a tough time to address the inequity right now. Cratering ad revenues have created black holes that are swallowing tons of journalist jobs, no matter who they're held by. New hires to help address the problem won't be walking through the door any time soon. 

(I did like Jon Greenberg's quick-fix suggestion of The Score finding an immediate landing spot for Rahimi.) 

Still, our Chicago fan base deserves to see more female faces in the media and the popularity of those departed shows there's clearly a demand. 

While the list of post-pandemic challenges for any media leader will be long, this is one problem that needs to be near the top. 

Midway Minute is a Chicago sports newsletter written by Kevin Kaduk and delivered to your inbox each weekday morning. To sign up, click the button below.

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