By Rachel Lenzi
As the head coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Orlando Miracle from 1999-2002, Carolyn Peck scanned the local newspapers with Miracle media relations director Katherine Wu and set a goal for her team: Get above the fold.
“Every Monday, we would plan the stories we were planning to pitch because we were trying to get above the fold,” said Peck, who is now a broadcast analyst with the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA. “(Katherine) knew the term. I didn’t. She folded the newspaper and showed me and I’m like, ‘aw, yeah, we want to be above the fold!’ That was my goal.”
Peck wanted more coverage of her team. Quality coverage about quality people and quality stories in women’s basketball.
More than 20 years later, Peck still wants that coverage for her sport — and she encourages it.
The media landscape has evolved to include digital platforms and social media, which helps to draw more attention to the women’s game and its stories. Still, as Peck spoke at the keynote luncheon at the APSE convention on Aug. 16 at the Flamingo Las Vegas, she advocated for more coverage of the women’s game, not just to benefit women’s basketball but also to benefit media outlets.
“It is a revenue stream because people are going to click and look for information about women’s basketball,” Peck said. “You look at football and basketball, how much more money is anybody going to be able to get out of fans for that? It’s probably tapped out. It’s probably not even scratched the surface when it comes to women.”
Peck has always had a passion for the game — and for promoting the game. In fact, Peck recalled her travels to different college towns as a broadcaster, and the conversations she had with some of the locals. At 6-foot-4, she stands out and, of course, she would be asked if she played basketball.
“No, gymnast,” she typically answers, in deadpan fashion.
(Peck played basketball at Vanderbilt from 1984-88 and she was a forward who averaged 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. She earned a degree in communications from Vanderbilt.)
She finds that sometimes, she’s the one telling a local about a women’s college basketball matchup.
“You go around to different schools in different cities, and you can see a direct correlation,” Peck said. “Where they get coverage, they have attendance. If they don’t have coverage, the attendance is not there. As I continue to look at that, I’m like, ‘damn, that’s a revenue stream that’s being missed.’
“It’s a matter of coverage.”
Peck grew up with the game of basketball. She won a national championship as Purdue’s women’s basketball coach in 1999 and has coached at the college, international and professional levels. She has seen how the game has grown and developed — and the coverage of the game. She wants attention on her sport and on her league and wants a spotlight on the Aces and on the stories within the WNBA.
With women’s basketball, she explained, there are stories in which, because there isn’t as much coverage “you have to do a little extra digging.”
Peck gave the elevator pitch on A’ja Wilson, a forward/center with the Las Vegas Aces. Wilson was the 2020 WNBA MVP and won a gold medal in Tokyo with the U.S. Olympic team. Wilson has dyslexia.
She also told a quick but resonant story of Chelsea Dungee, a guard with the Dallas Wings who was the fifth pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft. Dungee was once homeless.
“I hope some of these stories I’ve told, some of the stories that are yet to be told, will become an interest and a priority, in order to expand the coverage,” Peck said.
Then she backed it up. She offered her own contact information as a resource for journalists.
“I cover, nationally, women’s basketball,” Peck said. “I cover the WNBA. If there are people that you need to get in touch with, that you can’t get in touch with, (and are) interested in stories that you might want to send somebody to cover: CarolynPeck@me.com. I can help you get the access and where you might need to be.
“And let’s make this catch on like wildfire.”
Photo: Chip Murdock / For APSE