The National Lacrosse League (NLL) recently launched NLL Productions, a subdivision of their communications department focused on creating video content for web platforms. It’s a small operation right now – Toronto’s Mia Gordon is their only reporter. She works out of the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, while the rest of the NLL’s front office is based in Philadelphia.
“No two days are the same,” Gordon says, although her basic daily duties are consistent – creating content. Once or twice a week she connects with the league office to pitch stories and create a plan of action. Once her ideas are approved, it’s her responsibility to create them. She contacts the subjects, prepares questions, travels to do interviews and then writes the story. After that she figures out what video footage to use, edits everything together, and promotes it online. Content is then distributed to all of the NLL’s social media channels.
“Social media is where this industry is going,” Gordon says. “Everything is digital now. We used to actually call people on the telephone to make plans! It’s incredible to see how communication has changed. Social media is where people are getting their information from, so the more outlets we can get our stories on, the better.”
Gordon had a love for communications from a young age. She was a storyteller even as a child. While at the University of Louisiana – Lafayette, a professor suggested she become a broadcaster after she finished her degree in mass communications.
“I’ve always loved talking,” she laughs. “That’s one of my strengths. Also, I had an opportunity to travel when I was younger. We might all speak a different language but there are so many aspects of human communication that are similar no matter where you go in the world and I just found that so fascinating and beautiful.”
After brief stints at TV stations in Louisiana and Texas, Gordon returned to Canada and worked as a weekend reporter at CHCH in Hamilton before accepting an anchor position at the now defunct Sun News Network, where she was proud to be one of the youngest on-air news anchors in the country.
She admits she had some trepidation about accepting a job at the controversial station but was strictly on the news side of the operation, and the company treated her very well.
“If there was a story I felt would hurt my reputation as a journalist, I told them that I didn’t want to touch it,” she says. “As a journalist you have to be careful to tell the truth of stories and not come off as biased, so I would try to stay away from stories I didn’t feel comfortable reporting.”
Gordon also grew up a sports fan and attended Lafayette on a tennis scholarship. She’s been lucky to combine her passion for storytelling with her passion for sports, honing her craft in positions with Leafs TV, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and TSN.
While with Sun News, she was also working as the in-game host for the NLL’s Toronto Rock, where she fell in love with lacrosse. That experience helped when she applied for NLL Productions.
“Once I saw one game, I was hooked,” she says. “I thought it was an amazing sport.”
It helps that the lacrosse community is a small one. It’s more like an extended family than a business. That’s an advantage when you’re a woman in sports media. Whether you’re working for a team in public relations or reporting on games in front of the camera, women are judged on everything they say and do, including how they look.
“Being a female in this industry has posed quite a few challenges,” Gordon says. “I hate to say it, but you are looked at differently as a woman. In other sports, players might say things that are disrespectful. Sometimes your questions are overlooked and you can’t help but think that’s because you’re a female amongst a lot of males. There were times I was the only female reporter among five, six, seven male reporters and then of course the entire team.”
Lacrosse, though, is a different environment. NLL players are professionals, but they’re not full-time athletes. They have day jobs. Normal lives. They don’t make enough money to be able to put themselves on pedestals like other athletes might.
“As soon as I came in to the lacrosse world I got very positive feedback,” Gordon says. “They were very excited to have me on board; they were accepting of me as a reporter. They looked past my gender which doesn’t always happen in other sports.”
Reporting hasn’t always been easy, and Gordon hasn’t always worked consistently. The changing nature of communications means there is a lot of uncertainty in the industry.
“Something Michael Landsberg once told me was ‘I do this because there is nothing else that I can possibly do,’” Gordon says. “When I thought about quitting and changing career paths, I thought, ‘but there’s nothing else that I love. How could I leave an industry that I love?’”
She’s been with the NLL for two months now and is busy preparing for the season which runs from late December through June.
“One challenge with this job has been finding stories that are relevant to a broad range of people,” Gordon says. “We’re targeting millennials, trying to appeal to them while also appealing to long-time fans. We’re trying to bring people into the sport. Once we get into the season and see what the reaction from teams and fans is, then we’ll really start to analyze what we’ve been doing and make changes if necessary,” she explains.
She’s willing to do whatever the league asks to make NLL Productions a success. Right now that’s reporting through video content, but that could change in the future as technology changes.
“It’s a competitive world, and it’s a changing world,” she advises. “Be someone who wears many different hats. Make sure you are irreplaceable and you can take on the roles of many different people to separate yourself from the pack. If you can be adaptable and diverse and take on roles you didn’t think you would want to take on, keep pushing. Set yourself apart from other people in the industry. And don’t ever give up on your dreams.”