Sunday, December 30, 2007

Must-see TV: This Nike commercial

Finally! A Nike ad that really says something fresh and important. Watch UW wheelchair basketball player Matt Scott in a commercial that I hope will direct attention toward the U.S. athletes who will compete in the Paralympics this September. The ad airs nationally tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shuffling to TV, inflating salaries as they go: Where's the news?

Both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have, in the past week, published stories hyping the migration of sports journalists (Rick Reilly and Selena Roberts among them) to ESPN and Yahoo Sports.
Where's the news? As Slate's Jack Shafer rightly points out, ESPN has recruited from the print ranks for years. And it's no surprise that Yahoo, which has made no secret of its intention to become a major source of sports news, would pull from print (where else would Yahoo go? And now, of all times, when the anxiety in newspaper sports departments may be at an all-time high) Shafer also points out that the breathless NYT reporting on inflated salaries for sportswriters is also not justified -- inflated salaries for a handful of stars in the business is not new (and, in some ways, mimics the sports system it covers.)
As for its intentions, ESPN may genuinely be moving toward more original investigative journalism (instead of pontificating on the work of others), but it's hard to believe until the proof starts showing up on SportsCenter. ESPN has drawn young, male audiences looking to be entertained (not necessarily informed about what might be wrong with sports) by touting its cozy "insider" status with the sports industry.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What do young sports fans want from newspapers?

A little bit of everything -- and packaged impeccably, from our research. In focus groups with male and female sports fans, most of whom were in their early 20s, we also found that they are skeptical about sports journalism in general and see league Web sites (such as as credible sources for sports news. The demand for coverage of women's team sports (such as basketball) was low, but female sports fans did express an interest in coverage of tennis and participatory sports.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Student journalists covering big-time sports

"The Paper," an Independent Lens documentary that goes inside Penn State's independent student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, features sports reporter Jenny Vrentas. Vrentas, who moved on to Columbia's journalism program and became an AWSM intern, covered the PSU football team for the Collegian. The documentary shows her tenacity as a reporter who doesn't let athletic department bureaucracy or the male culture keep her from getting stories.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Treading a troubled past: Racist coverage?

Richard Prince's Journal-isms column today reviews concerns of NABJ sports journalists about AP coverage of the death of Washington Redskin Sean Taylor. Prince quotes a writer who wrote: "To suggest that black men like Taylor aren't dealt with unfairly in the media is to embrace the idea of mermaids as real or that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." Also taken to task was Leonard Shapiro's latest column, where he suggests that Taylor had it coming.
It's difficult to know if the same kind of coverage would have taken place had this been a white player with a similar background who had been shot. Ultimately, though, it seems that any review of Taylor's troubled past needs to be justified as clearly relevant and newsworthy -- and I'm not sure, at this point, it is.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Roberts likely the exception at SI

In a recent Washington Post column, Leonard Shapiro writes about the moves of high-profile sports journalists among newspaper, magazine and television. Of Selena Robert's recent move from the NYT to SI, he chronicles the magazine's stay-the-course record of marginalizing women and women's sports. He writes that the addition of Roberts "and perhaps more talented women to come, there's some hope for a little more gender equity in the SI ranks."
Shapiro then comes back down to earth: "Maybe Roberts will just be an exception, albeit a very welcome one, and that would be a great shame." Unfortunately, his afterthought is likely right. When it comes to women in sports journalism, the door tends to be a revolving one.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Despite concerns, revenue-driven model in college sports continues to mushroom

Penn State Professor Malcolm Moran and others in the movement to reform college sports met at a Hechinger Institute event earlier this month to review the ways college sports are pressuring academics -- see the video for a summary. These concerns have been around for a century, but the demands of commercial interests outside the academy are the new wrinkle. A recent article in Forbes outlines just what is on the line: millions and millions of dollars in a system that has taken its cues from the NFL.
The hand-wringing will help draw attention to the topic, but it won't make the solution any less difficult. The model built on revenue production but under the facade of higher education will have to be completely dismantled.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Zirin: Abolish the sports pages

Speaking at the annual conference of the North American Society of Sports Sociology yesterday, sports columnist Dave Zirin said he thinks sports sections need to be a thing of the past and that newspapers instead need to focus on providing news that is intensely local, politically engaging and important to readers' lives.
Zirin added that because sports journalists rely so much on access to athletes for their livelihood, they play along with the institutional sexism, racism and homophobia that have been part of professional sports. "The problem is that there is not more courage to challenge that," he said.
Although Zirin wondered out loud whether sports draws journalists who are conservative, he said that they are generally "anti-political" -- that is, unwilling to acknowledge the politics that are embedded in sports (thus, preserving the status quo). That is one reason what Zirin does is so unusual -- and so necessary.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The slow, steady slide of SI

Josh Levin's latest piece in Slate, What's Wrong with Sports Illustrated, describes the magazine as "passive and uncritical," seeking too much to mimic its cliche-crammed competitors such as ESPN the Magazine. Levin points to the NYT's Play magazine as a smart alternative, although Play doesn't have the influence or the potential of SI.
SI needs to focus on what can really set it apart (and above)most of the mindless, fawning fluff that fills sports-related pages and Web sites: smart, thorough, hard-hitting opinion pieces, and investigative journalism. But both of these mean investing in writers and reporters who can do the work -- not TV brand Dan Patrick.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jason Whitlock and new racism

Although the days of forced segregation and Jim Crow laws are over, racism has not disappeared but has morphed into a form of discrimination and prejudice that denies racist underpinnings, argues that issues of race are entirely cultural, and emphasizes individualism. We see it in sports with the general demonizing of black athletes coupled with a failure to recognize institutional racism in sports.
It's too bad when a nationally recognized sports columnist blatantly resorts to the sentiments of new racism because it just reinforces false stereotypes.
Jason Whitlock has done just that with his Fox Sports column this week, in which he argues that white football rosters make teams with better character and winnings. I learned of his piece from Dave Zirin, whose response should be required reading for anyone who lands on Whitlock's page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

With Cleveland gone, so are the insults

I was glad to see Cleveland's bid for a World Series spot stifled by the Red Sox -- not that I'm a Boston fan. I just find the imagery surrounding the team's mascot downright sickening. In a Poynter Centerpiece today, Roy Peter Clark challenges Cleveland fans and journalists who cover the team to act. He correctly compares Chief Wahoo to "the blackface Sambo images that polluted American culture in the first half of the 20th century, and Nazi propaganda portrayals of Jews with big noses and wicked sneers." He challenges journalists to reject it in coverage and to challenge the retention of this offensive mascot.
Cleveland isn't the only city with a mascot that should be rejected; unfortunately, this kind of racism is also represented by the NFL team in our nation's capital.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Study of coverage puts perspective on Penn State problems

Aaron Patterson's recent story on Centre County Reports, about the off-field problems of Big Ten football players during 2007, shows that Penn State players make up one-quarter of players in all of the conference who have gotten in trouble with the law so far this year. Although one year can't be used to judge a program, Aaron's report is another reason the Penn State off-field troubles are news.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Answering about off-field behavior

A prominent article in the sports section of USA Today joins coverage about the growing number of off-field troubles for the Penn State football team. The article discusses Joe Paterno's reluctance to answer questions about the situation, a strategy he's employed in the past. But this approach by Paterno is ultimately distracting and fuels speculation about him and team by the media and fans. It may be time to abandon that strategy and speak openly and honestly about how he is dealing with the team's troubles.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another diagnosis: What ails sports media

ESPN ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber warns at the beginning of her monthly column that it is long and quixotic. I would characterize the column as engaging and thought-provoking. Schreiber effectively uses the recent Gundy-Carlson incident and ESPN's coverage of it to argue that sports news and chatter (to use Eco's term) has become "the molehill on which mountains of opinion are built." She pleads for strong reporting to replace shrill, rumor-driven confrontainment that has unfortunately become the norm. Her column, I think, nicely builds on the arguments made by the Esquire's recent column on saving sports journalism.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More advice on sports: Make it relevant

Austin news director Kevin Benz writes the Centerpiece for today about the trend in local news markets to scrap the sports segment, but he suggests some ways they can instead salvage it and make it attractive. One way, he says, is through coverage of local stories that have impact on parents, children and local participatory athletes. Trying to cover the pros, he says, is a no-win strategy because national outlets do it better.
Benz' advice, I think, is also great advice for the newspaper sports section. Look at the paltry amount of space devoted to advertising in these sections. They need to draw a wider readership to attract advertisers. That means local -- and relevant to women and those who participate in the many sports available in their communities.

Monday, October 08, 2007

To stay relevant: Stop imitating the fans

The Esquire's Chuck Klosterman's recent piece, Four Ways to Save Sports Media, tells sports journalists this: Stop obsessing about the chatter and the ratings and focus on the sports. He argues that mainstream sports media still own the dialogue in U.S. culture about sports but they won't for long unless they change course and move away from making stories out of TV ratings and replicating sports-bar arguments on television. His most intriguing suggestion is that media producers consider killing the micro, by-the-minute coverage of off-field sports issues, which he says ultimately kill the effectiveness of sports journalism because such coverage kills perspective. I would agree, especially when it comes to perspectives on crime and athletes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

AWSM stands for all sportswriters

The Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) issued a press release calling Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy to task for attacking columnist Jenni Carlson in a press conference. Gundy was unhappy with a column she wrote about a quarterback who has been sidelined. In a media conference call, Carlson challenged assertions he made in his public tirade. Gundy's poor behavior has likely driven many more eyeballs to Carlson's column, and the AWSM release is spot on in saying that his personal attack on Carlson is disrespectful to all journalists.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What do women sportswriters have in common with Donovan McNabb?

Dana Pennett O'Neil's column earlier this week related her own experience as a female sportswriter to that expressed by Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb on Real Sports. The outside-the-establishment status shared by women in sports journalism and black men in certain positions in sports provides a common experience, as O'Neil points out. Although certainly accepted in the sports establishment, women and minorities still are not fully accepted as belonging there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Big-time prep sports: The price of coverage

Robert Andrew Powell's call for a boycott of big-time high school football in Slate magazine should be a must-read for anyone who hasn't thought critically about the implications of putting the national media spotlight on high school sports. Sure, it's cheap programming in comparison to the pricetag for airing college and pro games. High school sports also represent the purest of sports values to many Americans. But adding ESPN to the mix is a sure guarantee that any hope of retaining those values will disappear as quickly as cheap beer at a fraternity party.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Changing the job for sports beat reporters

Robert Weintraub, sports media critic for Slate, argues in the latest CJR (Play (Hard) Ball!) that sports beat writers should be willing to abandon their traditional role as objective scribe and compete more effectively for sports fans who want opinion-laden commentary. Although I like where he is headed, I am not so sure that his solution solves the problem he introduces in the beginning of his piece -- the increasing marginalization of the sports beat writer by teams, leagues, players and even fans.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Blame it on the timing?

Christine Brennan's column in USA Today charges FIFA with doing a disservice to women's soccer by scheduling it at a very busy time on the sports calendar -- with the start of men's pro and college football in the U.S. and pro soccer around the globe. Brennan writes passionately about what she sees as FIFA's lack of respect for women's sports, and she blames the timing for the fact that US media are all but ignoring the women's world cup. She writes, "Competing for space in the newspaper and airtime on TV this month is just not an issue."
In the U.S., coverage of men's football is at saturation levels. (USA Today, for instance, ran football in two sections yesterday), Is it fair to blame the timing when journalists make their priorities for coverage and decide to run multiple stories on men's football and none on soccer or WNBA basketball? (One wonders if that isn't like blaming the victim of a robbery because he or she left a door unlocked.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Women's sports coverage: Journalists who've made it happen

The always-entertaining-and-insightful Women's Hoops Blog blasts the NYT for its failure to cover the US Women's World Cup (with a reference to George Vecsey's recent column about the dearth of coverage). But that isn't as interesting as the story it tells about the difference journalists can make when they are committed to covering women's sports.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

'Rush to Injustice': No 20-20 hindsight here

I just read a book by Duke alumnus Nader Baydoun, "A Rush to Injustice." Unfortunately, however, Baydoun's book reads more like a breathless, inflammatory tirade than a thoughtful study of what went wrong in the Duke case. His tendency toward hyperbole and his failure to adequately address some facts in the case undercuts his credibility. For instance, he claims that the three Duke players accused in the case are themselves still victims of a gang rape that "to date, hasn't ended," although the three have been exonerated. He also fails to adequately explore/explain the infamous "cut their skin off..." e-mail by a team member, and Finnerty's misdemeanor assault charges aren't mentioned (Finnerty is instead described as having "a gentle demeanor").
Perhaps the most misguided assertions, however, are those Baydoun makes to charge reverse racism. He compares (seriously!) allegations from the lacrosse team party to those made about a later party that did not involve athletes but instead involved rape allegations that were made by a white female student against a black man who is not a student. No athletes are involved. Does anyone think these cases are comparable?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nike and the female athlete

Nike has just launched a new campaign aimed at selling women empowerment through athletic apparel. As the NYT points out, the campaign, designed after Nike interviewed 175 female athletes across the country, uses prominent athletes discussing their views on sexism and sports. Although provocative at the surface level, this campaign still ultimately relies on tired themes (witness the ad featuring Serena Williams, for instance) that won't move women's sports forward -- but it may sell more $9 Nike rubber bracelets.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Saturation coverage of athletes in trouble

The John Curley Center for Sports Journalism just published a report about coverage of off-field issues during 2006 in the Big Ten. One clear pattern that emerged was a hyper-focus on a handful of athletes (and former athletes) who were arrested or charged with crimes (from DUI to assault). The amount of coverage was disproportionate with the actual number of athletes involved in crime-related stories. Less than one percent of athletes were covered in relation to arrests or charges, although each was the subject of several, and sometimes a dozen, stories. For more, see our report.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Daring to call it what it is

The lawsuit filed by a woman who says she was fired after complaining about being groped and fondled by ESPN on-air personalities is a necessary step in addressing misogyny and sexual harassment in the media workplace. Unfortunately, research shows that many women tolerate harassment and don't want to call it out for fear of losing their jobs or opportunities for advancement -- especially in the locker-room environment associated with big-time sports.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Title IX at 35: Attitudes can skew coverage

A new survey of sports reporters by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism shows that about half of journalists who have written about the law think it hurts men's sports, and about one-third think the law should be changed. This could impact the way stories about Title IX are framed, and, ultimately, how the public sees the law. For the full report, click here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

And you thought this struggle was over

A female reporter who covers major league soccer posted about her experience in a team locker room where a player tried to chase her out. She stood her ground and got an interview but was understandably shaken. Her experience also points to the growing need for reporters who cover sports with Latino players to be able to speak Spanish.

Can't chew gum and walk at the same time?

Frank Deford's latest contribution to suggests changing Title IX in ways that would reward universities for continuing to allow football programs to devour their athletic budgets at the expense of low-profile sports.
Bad idea.
But what is worse about this column is the assumptions Deford makes about boys and girls. Apparently, boys can't pursue sports and academics at the same time, and the only reason girls "do better academically" than boys is that more boys are concentrating on sports. Studies show that when young people participate in organized sports -- boys or girls -- they generally do better academically than when they don't.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Even so, it is more about "info-tainment"

Denver Post sports reporter Adrian Dater goes on a long rant in his blog today about ESPN sports "reporters," whom he also calls leaches "or something much worse." Dater was apparentely infuriated by the comment from a friend about entertainment trumping journalism in sports. He accuses ESPN of ripping off stories and repackaging them.
No argument with his frustration about ESPN's less-than-stellar newsgathering practices (although the network has finally implemented a corrections column and has hired an ombudsman, to its credit). But Dater's frustration doesn't make it any less true: When it comes to sports, "info-tainment" is the name of the game.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Leave the press box?

In a follow up to the ejection of a Courier-Journal reporter from an NCAA baseball game for blogging in the press box, Poynter's Steve Klein suggests in an E-tidbits entry today that sports writers try blogging somewhere else: from the stands, for instance. That's the problem with the NCAA's policy: Wireless connectivity for anyone makes it possible for anyone, not only reporters , to provide Web-accessible play-by-play.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Zirin on the "athletic-industrial complex"

Dave Zirin, author of "What's My Name, Fool?" and who has been called the best young sportswriter in the U.S., was interviewed on Democracy Now today about his new book, "Welcome to the Terrordome." Zirin was especially critical of NBA Commissioner David Stern for turning the league and its players into "a spittoon for every racial anxiety." As always, the interview is worth a listen, and Zirin's book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand sports in U.S. culture.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Stifling coverage

A reporter from the Louisville Courier Journal was ejected from an NCAA baseball game earlier this week when he was caught blogging for the newspaper's Web site from the game. His editor said the paper is considering an official response because of violation of its First Amendment right to cover the game. It's too bad that economic interests in college sports have come to this -- I hope the NCAA's heavy-handed policy is challenged and eventually changed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A boost for speedwalking?

A Patrick Healy column in today's New York Times discusses a decided disadvantage for Hillary Clinton in light of previous presidential elections: her lack of a strong connection to sports. As Healy points out, the images of presidential candidates in recent years has been crafted -- at least in part -- around their athletic resume. (Remember where the Bush and Kerry were seen on election eve in 2004? ESPN.) Healy points out the interesting predicament of Clinton -- "speed walking" listed on her MySpace page as her favorite fitness activity and a lack of a strong sports portfolio. Her opponents, on the other hand (including Obama)are already positioning themselves with footballs and hunting rifles. It will be fascinating to see how images of traditional athleticism play into the campaigns in 2008.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The making of another pseudo-event

ESPN2 televised the MLB First-Year Player draft today. In presenting the MLB draft (and others, such as the super-hyped coverage of the NFL draft), ESPN is able to secure cheap programming and use it to promote itself. Pretty slick. Of course, it also benefits MLB, which could use the help of some positive PR (the most recent comments by Gary Sheffield, for instance, expose growing racial fractures in the sport).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sex and Sports

Two recent news stories point to the ways sexualized images influence coverage of men's and women's sports. The first: coverage of a female high school pole vaulter who has been the object of unwanted attention since a picture of her has made the rounds on the Internet. In a Sunday column, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell discusses the Post's decision to identify the girl after several readers complained.
AJC ombudsman Angela Tuck's Saturday column addressed a column the paper ran in which it asked a woman who had run a prostitution ring out of her home to rate the "Top Five Sexiest Athletes." Readers had (rightly)complained to the newspaper about its editorial choices.
Images of sex and sports have always been closely aligned -- often in ways that denigrate women. As athletes in the spotlight get younger and younger, the issues involved in the sexualization of sports will increasingly become more complex.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sex sells? ... Not.

Although conventional wisdom might tell us that female athletes who showcase their sexuality through magazine photo spreads are increasing interest in women's sports, a pilot study by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport suggests otherwise. Apparently, such coverage doesn't draw men and alienates women's sports fans. As SI's Aditi Kinkhabwala suggests, at least part of the reason for sexualized coverage could be because of the prevalence of men in decision-making positions. Ultimately, the positioning of female athletes as pseudo-cover girls is a losing proposition because it diminishes the sporting value of these women and female athletics in general.

The dynamics of race, sports and journalism

ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski covered Morehouse College's Black Athlete Forum, an event this week to kick off the college's new sports journalism program. The forum brought journalists and athletes together to talk about the disparities in minority representation in sports departments and about the oftentimes-negative coverage of Black athletes. Although the most publicized moments of the evening came in a charged exchange between Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer and journalist Jason Whitlock, I hope the lasting impact from this forum is in igniting interest in sports journalism among the students who attended. A greater presence of dedicated, well-trained minority journalists will benefit sports coverage immensely.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tip of the iceberg?

The cover story on USA Today's sports section addresses point-shaving in college basketball. The story reviews involvement of University of Toledo players in a scheme that involved working against the point-spread in games. The story recounts other major betting scandals in college athletics, including cases at Arizona State and Northwestern during the 1990s.
USA Today's story is a relatively rare look at the influence of gambling on college athletics, especially considering that a study published last year estimates point-shaving as a factor in 5% of games involving large spreads. On top of that, an NCAA study estimates involvement in gambling by male athletes at around 35 percent. Last year, Christine Brennan also pointed to NCAA documentation that about 5% of D1 players say they've taken money to play poorly or knew someone who did.
It was good to see the USA Today story today -- but the issue of point-shaving in college athletics needs a lot more attention.

Monday, May 07, 2007

USA Today on the trouble with Title IX

USA Today ran an op-ed in this morning's edition that considers whether Title IX should be changed (weakened). In an argument against changing the law, Title IX is neverthless charged with compounding the financial pressures faced by college athletics programs. A counterpoint piece written by the counsel to Equity in Athletics Inc. (an anti-Title IX group) challenges the proportionality test for Title IX, a common argument used to sidestep the real reason why Rutgers and other schools have recently cut their athletic programs: to feed men's revenue-generating (but usually not profitable) sports.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Implicit racism in sports: Who knew?

An unpublished research (and not yet peer-reviewed) report finds implicit bias among White refs against Black players in the NBA. The report, which experts hired by The New York Times say is more credible than the NBA's own research, has met a storm of protest from the NBA, journalists and athletes. But research has shown, time and time again, that implicit racial bias (see for yourself) is a reality. The mythology that sports is a great racial equalizer, however, is hard to shake.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Deford on Title IX: a Colbert-style salute

Erin Buzuvis and her colleagues' Title IX blog offers insightful analysis of Frank Deford's NPR commentary this morning about Title IX. Essentially, Deford perpetuates myths about the law but also offers useful insight about how schools could more fairly allocate money for men's sports.

Sports on the business pages

I wrote sometime back about the marriage of sports and business sections. According to an article in, ProTrade is aiming to launch 'the first real stock market in athletes.' The article makes a good case that trends are pointing the way toward the viability of a financial market "trading in jocks." Truth be told: It really sounds like nothing more than a more sophisticated form of gambling, a practice as old as sports itself.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The (sporting) adventures of new Christine

LA Times sportswriter Mike Penner's column in today's paper reveals his new identity as Christine Daniels. Daniels will be one of the few -- if not the only -- transsexual sportswriters in a U.S. newsroom. Penner is trading in an privileged identity (male) for one (female) that has generally had a marginal status in sports departments. I hope Daniels will consider joining AWSM, an organization that has supported women working in sports media for the past 20 years.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Post-Imus reflections

Nike ran an ad in today's New York Times that opines about the Imus fiasco: "Thank you for unintentionally moving women’s sport forward. And thank you for making all of us realize that we still have a long way to go." Unfortunately, the focus on the racism in his comment almost overwhelmed the ubiquitous-yet-invisible gender politics embedded in it. The most cogent take I've seen on the issue was, predictably, by Edge of Sports columnist Dave Zirin, who writes that much of the reaction to Imus is in "how we are taught to understand sports"

Friday, April 06, 2007

Stupidity or contempt...Does it matter?

Billy Packer's reason for using "fag" -- that he was using a much lesser-known definition of the word, reflects a terrible lapse of judgment by a broadcast professional who should know the power of common language. Meanwhile, Don Imus' comment about female college basketball players can't be construed as anything less than outright contempt for female athletes and women's sports. Do either one of these broadcasters deserve one more minute of airtime?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

After the crowds have gone home: Thinking about the future of women's sports coverage

Women's college basketball was in the spotlight Tuesday night in front of a sold-out crowd in Cleveland, demonstrating the drawing power of women's team sports. Yet, still, we all know the lowly status women's sports generally take in media coverage. During a pre-tournament event for aspiring high school and college sports journalists, ESPN's Mechelle Voepel talked about how economic pressures combined with old-fashioned attitudes keep women's sports from getting coverage. She added: "It's not completely a male-female thing...It's a generational thing." Young men realize, she said, "both sexes can share." She also said that recent coverage of problems in programs at LSU and Penn State are ultimately good for women's basketball: "The usually expose something that is difficult or needs to be taken care of in college athletics."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Clark: Sports attracts talented storytellers

Poynter's Roy Peter Clark plugs the Sports Journalism Summit next month and writes about the future of sports journalism, where he predicts great writing -- no matter how long -- will continue to draw readers. He marvels at the success of ESPN's Bill Simmons and writes about the allure of blogs: "The blogger's edge often comes from the rejection of political correctness and mainstream sentimentality. I'm down (or up?) with that. What I can't abide in the feedback loop is crude incivility, expressed by anonymous voices in the form of barbaric racism, sexism, xenophobia, or homophobia."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shooting from the hip

Margery Eagan of the Boston Herald observed in a column today that while Celtics analyst Cedric Maxwell's comment about a female ref needing to "go back to the kitchen [and] make me some bacon and eggs" may have put egg on his face, it was likely a sentiment shared by many who feel threatened by a woman's ability to bring home the bacon in sports.
Eagan points out that Brian Lam of the NBA referees' association said this kind of comment was a first, unfortunately, about a female ref. Let's also hope it's a last, even if it might reflect the fears of many who believe women really don't belong in sports.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Catfights" on the sports pages

Recent musing on the sports pages about the relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter has prompted Newsday's John Jeansonne to compare modern sports coverage to supermarket tabloid fare -- "straight out of the Hilton-Spears playbook." Although such coverage isn't new, pressure from bloggers and other fans-turned-journalists increased demand for sports journalists to cover sports celebrity controversies. If they don't, someone else will - and the news hole has unlimited room for such tabloid fare.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The business of priorities

The Akron Beacon Journal has joined at least one other mid-sized daily in announcing that it plans to tack business news on to the back of the sports section instead of running a standalone section. Chris Roush, in a blog on "Talking Biz News," speculated that it may signal the demise of business sections in U.S. newspapers. He asks: "What is more important to people, knowing information about their jobs and the economy, or knowing whether their favorite sports team won last night? ... At some point, newspapers will have to decide whether they want to improve society or not." The answer to Roush's question may not matter as much as the fact that circulation directors at many daily papers would likely agree that sports, not business, puts money in newspaper racks.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

'Most people don't give a flying whatever'

Denver Post columnist and ESPN personality Woody Paige, interviewed by PR Week, said the steroids story has been "overdone" because fans don't understand or care about the story. Stories about T.O., Lebron James and Barry Bonds, on the other hand are never overdone because of the public appetite for those stories, Paige said.
Paige added that journalists haven't done a good job explaining the steroids story. Could that be much of the reason that the public doesn't want to know more? Stories about the exploits of an individual (like T.O.) are easy to write and easy to understand. Stories about steroid use are more difficult to write and don't make easy visuals for TV. But they're far more important and need to be pursued. As fans understand the story, they will care.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Much is gained by losing the ballot

A column by ombudsman Bob Richter of the San Antonio Express-News on Sunday announced that the paper will no longer participate in the AP Top 25 polls for football and basketball. As Richter says, "little is lost." Instead, the paper gains credibility as its sports department better aligns with the job of newsmakers to report news instead of create it.
The E-N is one of a growing number of papers, including the LA Times and Washington Post, that doesn't vote in these polls. Comments by APSE sports editors illustrate the spectrum of opinions and the ethical issues tied up in the process.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ESPN, Amaechi and the NBA

My favorite sports columnist, Dave Zirin, rightly takes ESPN and the NBA (among others) to task for their treatment of the story about John Amaechi. Zirin argues that although ESPN is doing a bit of self-promotion because it published Amaechi's book, the story of his coming out is newsworthy. Zirin also argues that the response of ESPN columnist LZ Granderson is terribly misguided because Granderson, who is gay, does not understand the homophobic world that is men's professional sports. Zirin points to the undercovered story about NFL coach Tony Dungy's affiliation with a homophobic group, for instance, and to the NBA's refusal to post a story about Amaechi on its Web site.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Want the real scoop in Beijing? Turn off NBC, tune into the blogs

The IOC has decided that it -- for now -- will allow athletes to post blogs during the Olympic Games. Blogs by Olympians aren't new, but the IOC's decision not to try to ban them ahead of the Beijing games is significant: It signals a recognition of the new media environment, where athletes can speak directly to fans and where young fans are looking for interactive coverage beyond TV.
There are major concerns, including that of athlete privacy in the Olympic Village,. Another, of course, involves the implications for mainstream media outlets. Missouri Associate Professor Clyde Bentley wonders if this new version of "citizen journalism" will kill the economic media model that has enriched athletes. He wonders, for instance, if cable nets such as ESPN2 will eventually die at the hands of sites such as YouTube as the need for traditional gatekeepers in sports disappears.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl ad nauseum

It looks as though this year will set a new standard (you the judge about which direction) for Super Bowl sportainment.
Plenty of Web sites have given consumers a chance to start watching the ads already, and those who want a second -- or third -- look will get the chance on the sites like YouTube after the game. And pre-Super Bowl programming on CBS will, even by Sean McManus' admission, be so long as to even make viewers "nauseated" -- but, as he is quoted in the LA Times: "they will still watch."
Demonstrating the increasing influence of bloggers on mainstream sports coverage, CBS Sportsline has asked the irreverent, gossip-driven Deadspin to provide a no-holds-barred "glog" (live, running blog) during the Super Bowl on the CBS Web site.
Although embedded in all of this media coverage is a football game, the biggest winners in all of the consumer-oriented spectacle will be the advertisers.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Redefining or reinforcing tired stereotypes?

Marketing materials touting "SportsBabes," an online sports show that launches tomorrow, promise a "groundbreaking" program. Why? Apparently because the "super attractive women" who will host the show -- including a former beauty queen, a "Latina-lovely," and a "super-cute Texas native" -- are also intelligent and "super sports savvy." The women will host daily shows that last about 5 minutes, and the creator Smashtube hopes to snag (surprise!) sports fans in the coveted 20- and 30-something demographic through online channels such as YouTube.
Never mind the assumption behind this ad -- that most women are not intelligent or savvy. What's groundbreaking about positioning women in sports-related programming as "eye candy?"

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The sports pages meet the First Amendment

Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander, who has been a vocal activist in relationship to the situation facing "Game of Shadows" authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, told Penn State sports journalism students tonight to speak out about threats to the freedom of all journalists. Telander, who helped organize a demonstration in San Francisco by sports journalists last year, said he hadn't paid much attention to issues involving the First Amendment until this one -- perhaps the first involving investigative sports journalism. Telander also told students that he is in favor of a certification or licensure system for journalists.

Friday, January 19, 2007

ESPN praised for gay-friendly coverage

Clyde Zeigler, Jr., a founder of Outsports, has written an article for the Web site praising ESPN for what he says is the network's "history of gay-friendly actions that have separated it from much of the rest of the sports world." He cites ESPN's record of stories addressing homophobia in sports, its hiring of gay journalists (such as LZ Granderson at The Magazine) and the network's role as a sponsor of the Gay Games in 2006. He says there is "still work to be done" at the network, but Zeigler presents plenty of evidence that ESPN is resisting the homophobia that often accompanies the locker-room mentality in sports.

The (virtual) reality: Our changing definitions of sports

Early in the spring semester, I talk to my Sports, Media and Society class about the definition of sports. Yesterday, after my class wrestled with whether poker, hunting and fishing, and competitive ballroom dancing are sports, I caught a piece on NPR's Marketplace about another potential "sport" with its own superstar athletes: video gaming, which, as an industry, has more revenues than the NFL, NBA and MLB combined.