Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Limon Romero making history in Orlando

By Alaa Abdeldaiem
SJI Class of 2018

Iliana Limón Romero is breaking barriers.

As a female professional working in sports media, it’s all Limón has ever been known to do.

She earned the respect of her peers at the Orlando Sentinel by serving as the University of Central Florida’s athletics beat reporter for four years before solidifying her impact as an assistant sports editor.

Now, Limón Romero is the paper’s new sports content director. She is leading the entire department, expanding coverage and spearheading innovative efforts.

And she is the first Latina at a major daily newspaper ever to do it.

“The fact that I’m the only Latina sports editor is remarkable,” Limón Romero said. “I was honored that people believed in me and said I was the best person for the job.”

Limón Romero’s new role comes after former sports editor Roger Simmons left to pursue his interest in leading digital innovation elsewhere within the company.

While Limón Romero originally did not intend on becoming an editor, for many within the newsroom, her appointment came as no surprise. Former sports reporter Shannon Green, an SJI alum, was especially glad to see Limón’s “natural progression.”

“When Iliana first started, I remember telling her that she would make a great editor,” Green said. “Seeing a woman of color and especially a Hispanic woman become an editor is very rewarding. It makes me happy to see her doing well because I knew she could do it.”

Limón Romero isn’t the only female climbing up the ranks, either.

Tronc Inc. also recently named Kathy Laughlin as the sports editor at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Laughlin had previously served as the paper’s sports editor before newsroom reorganization moved her back to an assistant role.

Now, nearly a decade later, she too is at the helm.

“It hadn’t occurred to me that now Iliana and I are both leading sports departments at sister papers,” Laughlin said. “There are a lot of talented women out there, and it feels great to see them succeed. It’s important for anyone that does a good job to be able to succeed regardless of their gender, race or religion.”

One reporter has had a front row seat in seeing these sports editor’s rise up to the top of their sports departments.

“Having the chance to work with both Kathy and Iliana has made me a better writer and reporter and has opened my eyes to the possibilities that can exist as a woman in this business if I ever want to leave reporting,” said Christy Cabrera, sports reporter at the Sun-Sentinel. “Both of them have shown me it’s possible to follow my dreams, to balance my responsibilities at work and at home and have encouraged me to be the best I can be. I know how rare it is to be a woman in sports journalism as it is, but to be a woman that’s had the opportunity to work with two female editors that have traveled this road too has been pretty awesome.”

Neither of their journeys were easy, however. Women in sport media face a number of challenges on their way to success. For some, those hurdles include unequal pay and sexism in the workplace.

For Limón Romero and Laughlin, it was fighting for an equal playing field, recognition and credibility.

“It’s hard to climb the ladder, especially when there are people who are trying to prove you don’t belong,” Laughlin said. “When you’re a woman and you say you’re a sports editor, people like to quiz you on sports trivia and find out if you’re really qualified. I’ve never seen happen to a man.”

Limón Romero and Laughlin’s experiences are not unique within the industry. According to the sixth edition of the Associated Press Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card, 90 percent of sports editors at 75 newspapers and websites are men. When ESPN female assistant sports editors are not included, the percentage drops from 30.1 to 6.3 percent.

“It’s great there are women presently in these roles, but there used to be far more,” Association for Women in Sport Media board chair Lydia Craver said. “When there used to be far more deputies and assistants, there were more women to consider for promotions. Now, there are far fewer even up for consideration, and for fewer slots.”

It’s because of this reality that Limón Romero knows there is more work to do, more barriers to break.

“I can’t be the only Latina sports editor moving forward,” Limón said. “I look forward to using this opportunity to make it less newsworthy when a female minority is appointed as an editor and add more voices to cover the diverse landscape that is sports.”