IWD: Jemima Holmes expertly navigates a “man’s field” of sport reporting as Guyana Times’ lone female sports journalist

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By Lakhram Bhagirat

The world of sport journalism is, without a doubt, a heavily male-dominated field. It remains that way for many reasons but over the years there have been many women breaking into the field and cementing their seat at the table as equals.

However, many are still taken by surprise whenever they see a female journalist covering sporting assignments.

This has been the experience of Guyana Times’ Sport Journalist Jemima Holmes over the years.

For the Bishops’ High School alumni, she had great admiration for journalists but never thought about entering the profession until she was pushed by a close friend to apply at Guyana Times. The friend, a former journalist now residing abroad, was leaving his substantive post as a “hard news” reporter and pushed her to apply.

She applied and was appointed in January of 2018 and ever since she has been blazing the trail and breaking the barriers. Her first post with Guyana Times was as a hard news (current affairs) journalist.

She was attached to the main newsroom and given the relevant training to function in her new capacity.

Shortly after assuming her role as a reporter, Holmes was transferred from the main newsroom to the Sport Department to broaden her skills.

“Hard news was definitely a rough patch for me, mainly because I’m a creative writer first. Writing serious, straightforward stories was a bit difficult for me, especially when politics was involved. When I moved to sport, I felt like I had more room to be creative with my stories. Like for games, I could write subjectively and it was definitely relieving. It (sport reporting) was just a spot I was placed in for a couple weeks initially and fell in love with it,” the young woman said.

For Holmes, being a part of the media wipes away the fairytale that she imagined it to be. She said that there are lots of exciting moments, especially in sport, but the job takes a lot of commitment and application. On the positive side, she has watched her writing and thinking get better over the years and that’s something she remains grateful for.

“Sport requires a lot of late nights. At first, I didn’t attend assignments after a certain time and I realised that I was missing half of the action. So the late nights (sometimes early morning) are a big sacrifice, but worth it. Another challenge is being surrounded by men can be a little intimidating and there aren’t really any females around on assignments that I can relate to. The situation taught me to hold my own, especially when the guys get into trading jokes,” Holmes said.

When asked about some of the best moments she has had over the years, this is what she said: “One of the best moments for me was when the Guyana Amazon Warriors won their 11th straight game in 2019 and it was a local game. Just seeing the type of patriotism, happiness and racial unity a simple cricket game brought in that moment is something that I’ll never be able to forget. Another great moment was the Golden Jaguars beating Belize 2-1 in 2019 to qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time. Like the cricket game, it really has a sense of unity amongst spectators and it was equally a monumental achievement for Guyanese football.”

Over the years, Holmes has written hundreds of stories so when asked about her favourite piece, she was rightfully flustered.

Her Caribbean Premier League (CPL) pieces hold a special place in her catalogue of best pieces but her current favourite one is the Valentine’s Day special piece written about the love story of local cricket sensation Shimron Hetmyer and his other half, Nirvani.

“The story wasn’t too lengthy or anything but just being able to talk to Shimron about a part of his life that he’s usually tight-lipped about was really cool.”

Holmes hopes to continue building herself and further cementing her place as one of the foremost sport journalists in Guyana.

“It’s tough most days because people (not only the ones I work with) tend to think that because I’m female my abilities are limited. Once I got accustomed to the guys, they really made the job easier but it still comes with its challenges, even female athletes sometimes don’t expect to see a female sport reporter. It’s like women in construction, everybody is surprised to see you mixing cement, even if you’re doing it well…I plan on doing more creative writing, acting and maybe even voice acting again.”