Betsy Ross, ’72, decided she wanted to be a writer in fourth grade. An assignment to interview someone led the Indiana native to Candace Murray, a columnist at the Connersville News Examiner, Ross’ hometown newspaper.
“She was kind enough to stay at the paper after hours until my dad could drive me up there, and she spent her evening talking to me about the news business,” said Ross, whose career has spanned print and broadcast journalism. “I instantly knew that's what I wanted to do.”
After a stint at the high school newspaper, Ross studied journalism at Ball State before earning a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame. She worked as a copy editor, broadcast reporter and professor before founding Game Day Communications, a sports and entertainment firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The lessons she learned at Ball State, Ross said, have helped her navigate each role and industry.
“I had just turned 17 when I came to Ball State, so it truly was my first opportunity to be on my own and explore career options,” she added. “It gave me a chance to figure out what I wanted to do—and what I didn't want to do—while making lifelong friendships in the process.”
While at Ball State, Ross explored career options through sorority Alpha Sigma Tau (no longer on campus) and various writing and public relations roles for campus organizations. Gaining experiences, she said, is the most valuable lesson she learned at Ball State.
“I always tell students to say yes to every opportunity, because it's easier to find out while you're still in college what you like, and what you don't like,” Ross said. “If you try it and it doesn't work out, no big deal, go to the next opportunity. You don't want to say ‘what if’ because you turned down a job or didn't take a class because you thought it would be too hard.”
ESPN takes notice
After graduating, Ross worked as a copy editor for the South Bend Tribune from 1973-78. Having grown up watching baseball and football with her mother, Ross happily volunteered to cover high school sports between shifts on the copy desk or classes at Notre Dame. In 1977, Ross earned a master’s degree in communication arts, and a year later, accepted a position at the South Bend NBC affiliate on campus.
Ross moved on to WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, and in 1996, covered the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games for the station. There were about two dozen Cincinnati athletes involved in the trials and games, so she followed their journeys in diving and gymnastics.
At the same time Ross was covering the Olympics, ESPN was looking for anchors to launch ESPNews. Because of her background in both sports and news, she was offered the job. Later, she also anchored SportsCenter on the weekends.
Never mind the stereotypes
Ross said no one—“at least no one who mattered”—ever told her she couldn’t work in sports due to her gender. She grew up watching women like Phyllis George break into male-dominated sportscasting. Ross was driven to carry on their legacy.
“I was fortunate to have people in authority (mostly men) support my ambition to get into sports,” Ross said. “If I didn't have those people supporting me, I never would have gotten the experience I needed. And, of course, my parents were my main support system, telling me there wasn't anything I couldn't do or couldn't be in my career.”
To women today facing barriers to entry, Ross said she advises them to “keep their heads down and work hard.” It’s through hard work and knowledge of the field that women will get the recognition and respect they deserve.
She admitted the process isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s necessary to put in more hours than the person next door, “but it’s worth it,” she added. Finding a mentor, she said, is essential to navigating the rough spots and celebrating wins.
Tragedy inspires a career shift
Though she said it sounds cliché, Ross left broadcasting after re-assessing her life, as many others did, after Sept. 11, 2001. First and foremost, she wanted to be closer to her mother. So, after five years at ESPN, she moved back to Cincinnati and launched Game Day Communications with her business partner Jackie Reau, whom she met when she was a reporter for WLWT.
Now in its 18th year, the public relations company advises clients from California to New York, including Film Cincinnati and the singer Jewel. “It was a leap of faith, and it's still a growing process, but I am so glad we did it,” Ross said of the now 12-person operation.
In addition to running a national firm, Ross freelances for Cincinnati’s Fox 19, where she gets to report her favorite sport — college football. In 2002, she covered Ohio State’s football championship win. Ross also finds time to announce the University of Cincinnati’s women’s basketball, soccer and lacrosse games. Additionally, she calls men’s and women’s basketball games for various outlets, including FOX Sports Ohio.
“As an anchor (at ESPN), you don't get to leave Bristol, Connecticut, all that often to cover a sport,” said Ross, who gives back by teaching graduate PR courses at Xavier University in Cincinnati. “I always joke I had to leave ESPN to cover sports, but it's true. I always say my life has surpassed my dreams. I've been very fortunate that I have had the opportunities that have come up. I don't take any of it for granted.”
by Alexandra Smith '18
- Student status: First-year graduate student, MA in public relations
- Expected graduation: May 2020
- Hometown: Elkhart, IN
- Fun fact: When I'm not reading or writing, I'm running. I've done four half marathons and one full marathon.
- Future goals: I would like to work in social media for a company like Ironman Triathlon or Disney.