Thursday, August 31, 2006

Protecting the rights and work of journalists

A colleague of mine, Scott Reinardy at Ball State, sent me the following letter from Rick Telander, a senior sports columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. The investigative work of sports journalists is too critical not to protect.

Dear fellow sportswriters, sports columnists, sports editors:
I think you all know the situation that San Francisco Chronicle sportswriters (or writers in the sports venue) Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams find themselves in—that is, they will go to jail if they do not reveal private sources to a grand jury. They have a chance of winning on appeal, or, possibly, the case might move to the Supreme Court for a ruling.
But the threat to freedom of the press and the basis of investigative reporting is very real, not to mention the threat of jail time for those two men.
We as sportswriters have a unique chance to show we care about this situation and about our colleagues, who—even if you disagree with their premise in ``Game of Shadows'' or other writings—are men of integrity and diligence and conscience, working under the long-established foundation of American journalism and the freedom the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution so clearly provides to the press.
No, we cannot have our grand juries constantly undermined by leaks.
And yes, there is room for interpretation here, for courts to look at each case individually.
But journalists cannot be agents of government at any level, nor of governmental law enforcement agencies, and sportswriters—any journalists—cannot be afraid that their promises of anonymity to informants will be undermined by subpoenas to tell all.
On Wednesday, Sept. 6, I and as many sports guys and gals as possible will meet in Washington, DC before the shield law hearings—a journalism protection bill proposed by bipartisan U.S. Representatives and Senators—to show our support for Fainaru-Wada and Williams and, by extension, the free press we so enjoy but often take for granted. Williams will be voluntarily testifying Fainaru-Wada hopes to be there, too), but he and Mark have nothing to do with this show of support. Indeed, I barely know either man.
More details will be coming, but, by God, if you can come and be counted on the steps of the Capitol, it will be a wonderful thing. The more columns, debate, passion, spirit we bring to this, the better. All ideas are welcome. Please stay in touch.
This has absolutely no political overtones whatsoever, no further implication than the belief that making a stand on freedom of the press is not only an American duty, but a joy. And for us sports people it is a rare chance to show we stand for something other than paychecks, free food, and crabbiness.
If you agree with this premise, but cannot come to DC for whatever reason—Dig deep, brothers! Don't count on editorial funds!—consider signing your agreement (via email or fax or passed-along paper) with the following statement and get it to me or somebody else who will be there on Sept. 6:

I am opposed to the subpoena of Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams to reveal their private sources, and I support their right, and the right of all journalists, to be fully protected by the First Amendment and its clear provision for freedom of the press.

Your name, signature, affiliation, and date underneath.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Could sports participation be a factor?

I'm listening right now to a Talk of the Nation piece about new research that indicates that Latina teenagers are in trouble -- they are more likely to drop out of school, to use drugs, to attempt suicide. One fact that also springs to my mind: Latina teenagers lag behind other groups in a key area: sports participation. I can't help but think there's a connection, when we know about all of the positives sports participation brings to girls in relation to their bodies and outlook. It seems that programs that help young Latinas experience the joy of sports could make a huge impact.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Internet and niche sports

One thing I love about the reach of the Internet is its ability to bring us news of sports that don't get mainstream press coverage (of course, this can also be used as an excuse by journalists for not covering certain sports -- not good). One of my graduate students, Kelly, sent me the link to a Web site with day-to-day coverage of underwater hockey -- check out the world championships.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Unfair mandate or gender-equity model?

A blog post by my colleague Liz Matson about an Australian column that disparaged women's sports got me curious about a proposal Down Under that coverage of women's sports be required for broadcasters. The proposal was presented during Senate hearings about women's sports,and has backers including Football Federation Australia, Women in Sport Media Group and the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
The media response to the proposal has been interesting and has demonstrated that we still have a lot of work to do in coming to terms with women's sports, how they challenge gender socialization, and how uncomfortable that makes many people.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Local TV sports: Going, going, gone?

The Center for Sports Journalism today published results of a survey of sports anchors, directors and reporters at local newscasts in the top 50 U.S. demographic markets. The survey found that a majority of the 216 survey respondents believe that the importance of television sports is diminishing and that it could disappear from the local newscast someday. With the rise of the Internet and RSNs, along with ESPN, the sports segment on local newscasts likely isn't as relevant to viewers.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Postscript on sports dept. demographics

It occurred to me as I was looking through the columns that appeared after the APSE study was published in June -- all I've seen focus on the lack of minority journalists in newspaper sports departments. What is curious about that is that the low numbers of minority sports journalists mirror the rest of the newsroom. In other words -- the lack of minorities in sports departments is part of a newsroom-wide problem.
What surprises me is the lack of attention the news about women in sports departments has generally received. Women in sports departments are outnumbered 3-to-1 by women in other parts of the newsroom. In other words, the big problem in sports -- uniquely -- is the lack of women.
I can't help but think that the uproar over the lack of minorities and the silence about the lack of women plays into invisible (but ubiquitous) stereotypes: minorities "naturally" belong in sports, and women don't.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting athletes ready for the spotlight

With football season around the corner, hundreds of college athletes will soon be under the glare of media scrutiny -- and they may not be ready for it. As Lauren Reynolds points out in "Media training aims at producing scandal-free athletes," an increasing number of athletic directors are hiring sports media trainers (such as Sports Media Challenge) to prepare athletes to project the best possible image. This trend is one that will likely become routine for colleges around the U.S. Penn State's Center for Sports Journalism is tracking reporting of off-the-field incidents in the Big Ten to learn more about how such incidents are covered by both the collegiate and mainstream press.