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ESPN reporter Erin Andrews calls for tougher laws against stalkers and video voyeurism

Erin Andrews, left, is interviewed by 17-year-old Kelsey Souto, a Clearwater High student and reporter for WPDS, the Pinellas County Schools TV station, at the Outback Bowl Luncheon.

Photo courtesy of the Outback Bowl

Erin Andrews, left, is interviewed by 17-year-old Kelsey Souto, a Clearwater High student and reporter for WPDS, the Pinellas County Schools TV station, at the Outback Bowl Luncheon.

The teenage girl, microphone in hand and admiration in her eyes, started an interview with one of her idols with a mix of nerves and niceties.

ESPN reporter/anchor and hometown girl Erin Andrews handled the inquiry with aplomb and care, answering thoughtfully and with genuine self-deprecating humor. She didn't run away from the opportunity to offer helpful advice and be a guide.

Andrews, 32, talked about hanging out at Bloomingdale High, attending the University of Florida and how good looks can only take a woman so far in the exacting world of sports reporting.

"Lesley Visser made a comment, and I've lived by it," Andrews said. "You can get your foot in the door by how you look, maybe how you dress, being able to relate to athletes and coaches, but you're not going to stay there because of that.

"You're only going to advance and get better with how prepared you are."

Returning to Tampa last week as the keynote speaker for the Outback Bowl Luncheon, Andrews fielded a number of inquiries, discussing her current role as an ESPN reporter/anchor and her recent stint on ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

And if she chose not to go beyond those sanguine topics, no one would have complained. But Andrews feels compelled to do more.

In 2009, a stalker posted video of Andrews getting undressed in her hotel room. Earlier this year, Michael David Barrett

was convicted of Internet stalking and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Andrews still feels wounded.

So she's advocating for tougher laws against stalking and video voyeurism. This summer, she testified on Capitol Hill before Congress.

"Selfishly, it's helping me heal because I'm not better," Andrews said. "I have a lot more healing to do, and I feel like now I'm at this stage that I'm really angry. I'm ticked off that this happened.

"I'm trying to show people that this is a crime and that this is something that needs to be taken seriously."

Being back home helped temper Andrews' anger. She slept in her old bed, shared a strawberry and cream cheese bagel with her dog Emmy and enjoyed dinner at Roy's with her parents.

"And I paid. What's up with that?" Andrews joked.

She smiles about growing up out here with a father, Steve, who ingrained in her a love for Boston teams, especially the Celtics. Andrews joked that she and her mother, Paula, both had a crush on former Celtics forward Kevin McHale.

Those childhood sports beginnings helped crystallize her career vision when she was a student at Bloomingdale High.

"When I went to Bloomingdale … I would tell my guy friends I'm going to work on ESPN and some of them wrote in my yearbook, 'Good luck on ESPN when it all works out.' So that's pretty neat."

Through it all, it's obvious that Andrews possesses a fondness for her hometown, her roots and her family. She proudly boasts about staying grounded and being the prototypical girl next door.

Her father, an investigative reporter for WFLA-Ch. 8, provides constant counsel before and after her television appearances, and she credits her mother with giving her the strength to stand tall in a male-dominated field.

"Obviously over the last year, they've just been so instrumental in me landing on my feet and trying to make good out of a situation that was pretty crummy," she said.

Andrews' willingness to advocate for tougher laws earns admiration. Like so many other celebrities victimized by stalkers, she simply could choose to close that sad and sordid chapter and resume her career.

Yet she refuses to back down.

"I'm really trying to make this crime something that people take seriously, don't laugh at, don't download on the Internet," Andrews said. "The laws stink. They're a joke. They need to be strengthened."

The honesty and openness creates a profile in courage that makes Andrews not just a hometown girl, but someone I can point to when I talk to my own daughter about overcoming obstacles to pursue your dreams.

That's all I'm saying.

ESPN reporter Erin Andrews calls for tougher laws against stalkers and video voyeurism 10/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:48pm]
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