Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Controlling the message

Attempts by organizations, leagues and players to control their PR spin is increasingly putting limits on access by sports journalists. For instance, Barry Bonds announced last week that he would not cooperate with reporters that didn't allow him to use their material in his upcoming reality show. The LPGA has also announced that it will not credential reporters and photographers unless they essentially agree that their products become property of the LPGA. These are just the latest developments; see this Slate article for more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Still held in low esteem

Women in sports broadcasters have a tough career path -- the pipeline to important jobs is narrow and discouraging (the most recent to leave: Bonnie Bernstein). It's infuriating when popular sports Web sites such as Deadspin.com show little respect to women sports broadcasters through the use of doctored photos and invitations for comments. The doctored photo of Erin Andrews (and accompanying commentary) has also appeared on fan sites. It's a sign that women in sports still don't get the respect they deserve.

Fiction in the sports pages

Worth repeating, even if it's a week old: a Vince McMahon (WWE) story that several media outlets got at least partially wrong. At least one newspaper report (and TV accounts) on accusations that McMahon groped a tanning salon employee erroneously reported that McMahon filed for divorce. He hadn't. The divorce was part of the fictional WWE storyline -- not reality.
The irony, however, is that an editor at the Boca Raton News said the paper won't run a correction.
Why? 'It's impossible to define what is real and what isn't when it comes to wrestling,' he said.
Ever heard of court records? The divorce filing would have been easy enough to verify.
Admittedly, WWE isn't a sport (although it meets the test in several key ways), and the weird world of WWE is more fact than fiction. But we trust newspapers to be able to sort through the mess, and, when it's newsworthy, give us the facts.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Where's Judith Miller when you need her?

It seems that the New York Times isn't willing to transfer lessons it learned (we hope) from the Judith Miller fiasco to its sports pages. At least one Miller lesson should have been that when a reporter becomes involved with newsmakers, disclose it -- and early. But the Times, according to E & P, is refusing to explain why it referred to one of its sports reporters as "the other man" in a story about charges of sexual harassment against NHL Rangers PR Director Jason Vogel. A Rangers cheerleader has accused Vogel and "the other man" of cornering and propositioning her at a NY bar.
Besides obvious questions about why the NYT didn't disclose the involvement of its reporter in the incident it reported, this incident also brings up ethical questions about the coziness of source-reporter relationships.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Women's sports in the limelight

Although women's sports in the U.S. generally get little coverage year-round, the Olympics offers a bright spot every two years. Research on Olympic coverage has shown that female athletes get a good chunk (upwards of half) the airtime and ink as their male counterparts in U.S. media. This year, it looks as though U.S. snowboarders Hannah Teter and Gretchen Bleiler are two names that will resonate in coverage. Unfortunately, their names will likely fade from the news after the games, given the nature of snowboarding as a seasonal sport that doesn't demand regular beat coverage.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A (no) vote of confidence

The recent firing of a sports reporter at the Tampa Tribune after she manipulated an award ballot provides even more reason for newspaper sports departments to get out of the business of making news. I hope more papers follow the lead of the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution, and, most recently, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in moving toward more ethical journalism.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Another perspective on the Super Bowl

As the U.S. "celebration of concentrated wealth" continues in Detroit through the Super Bowl Sunday night, David Zirin writes a column about what Super Bowl revelers won't see on their TV sets: the poverty and social ills that have been masked to keep the show from being spoiled. It's worth a read.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Super Sunday of mythical proportions

Super Bowl Sunday -- an unofficial national holiday --celebrates two cherished American virtues: consumption and nationalism. It also gets a dose of super-hype from the media, which (helped along by the NFL) continue to exaggerate its importance to the rest of the world. Although at least 100 million people in the U.S. are expected to tune into at least part of the game, its global viewership likely won't get anywhere close to the 800 million cited by many news accounts. If you're looking for the sport with a real global audience -- it's soccer. Audited research puts World Cup viewership at about 28 billion.