Sunday, September 28, 2008

High school gears up for TV debut

The Washington Post today outlines the pregame buildup for a local school football team (Good Counsel, in Montgomery County, MD) that will be on national TV this Thursday night.
Preparations for the Thursday-night game will include all the tasks and costs involved in crowd management and security for an event sure to draw thousands of extra fans (on a school night, no less). The tasks are being handled by school administrators who are usually paid for other duties, and the school must also dole out money for extra police officers and preparation of school grounds for the crowd.
The payoff? $1,000 from ESPN -- a paltry sum in relationship to advertising revenues for the network -- and extra ticket and concession sales. The game will also give Good Counsel national name recognition, although the article doesn't explore how such exposure furthers the academic goals of Good Counsel.
The game is one of 19 scheduled to air on ESPN this fall.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The old is new again

Sports journalism has struggled to gain credibility as an ethical enterprise since the days when sportswriters were an extension of the team -- accepting freebies as the norm. APSE decades ago introduced a code of ethics, much of which focuses on sportswriters' avoiding discounts and freebies from the sources they cover.
So it was interesting to read, in a Sports Business Journal article titled "Newspaper cutbacks slice into sports coverage" that newspapers may receive offers of discounted hotel rooms for journalists at sports events -- courtesy of the sports entities they're covering. The article outlines plans by Major League Soccer to negotiate lower-priced hotel rooms on behalf of journalists who might cover their events. It benefits sports entities: They get more coverage. News organizations won't complain: They get a discount. But the appearance of this kind of benefit coming through sports organizations to journalists might again erode the reputation of sports journalism as an ethical enterprise.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We already knew, but...

The Wall Street Journal, in an article headlined, "Maybe Women's Sports Don't Hurt NCAA Men," relayed the results of a Women's Sports Foundation study demonstrating that Title IX is not to blame for cuts in men's collegiate sports. Instead, skyrocketing expenditures on men's revenue sports such as football and basketball often lead administrators to cut men's Olympic-style sports such as wrestling.
Our research shows that the Title-IX-as-culprit myth has gone unchallenged in media coverage over the years, and that many reporters also believe the myth -- so it's nice to see this latest WSF research getting some attention. Of course, the report has already been attacked by the College Sports Council and others opposed to Title IX.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A salute to pioneer Mary Garber

Mary Garber, a sportswriter who said her idea of heaven would be "football season," died over the weekend at age 92. She started working at the Winston-Salem Journal and Twin City Sentinel as a sportswriter in 1946 and retired in 1997 although she kept working part-time until 2002.
As the story of her death in the Journal notes, "she was probably the first fulltime woman sportswriter at a daily newspaper in the country, and she certainly had the longest career."
Garber took seriously her role as a role model for women who aspired to cover sports. "I thank you in the name of all young girls around the country," she said in accepting the 2005 Associated Press Sports Editors Red Smith Award.
Sports journalists all over the country -- men and women -- remember Garber as a pioneer and a class act. AWSM President Jenni Carlson, who noted that Garber didn't get access to a locker room at the ACC basketball tournament until 30 years after her sportswriting career started, added: "Mary didn't let that roadblock get in her way. No roadblock got in her way."
Lisa Mickey, senior writer for the Duramed FUTURES tour, recalled being mentored by Garber, who gave Mickey books to read and encouraged her career. "Mary never worked for the money or the by-lines. She did it because it was in her and she loved every interview and put her heart into every word," Mickey wrote in an e-mail.
To hear Garber interviewed about her career, visit the Washington Press Club Foundation oral history project.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You know it's bad: Economy hits the NFL

Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal was interviewed on American Public Media's Marketplace report today about the NFL's budget shortfalls.
The NFL is still the biggest, most profitable sports property in the U.S., says Lefton, but Roger Goodell's recent memo to the league even hints at layoffs in light of less-than-projected revenues.
For the first time in Lefton's memory, the NFL started the season without a new corporate sponsor. Financial services and the auto industry are traditionally big sponsors, and both sectors are struggling.
Smaller leagues and teams are likely in much worse shape than the NFL. On top of that, what Lefton calls the "false economy" -- ad money and sponsorships pumped into sports via the U.S. election and the Olympics -- will dry up next year.
Are there any bright spots? Yes -- the WNBA recently announced a banner year for marketing, media and revenues.
Credit increased publicity because of the Olympics, the infusion of Candace-Parker star power, and better marketing by teams and the league. It's good to see the WNBA -- which has struggled in a market dominated by male leagues -- continue to grow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A primer for sportswriter wannabes

Joe Gisondi, who teaches sports journalism at Eastern Illinois University, has moved his blog, which provides reporting and writing tips for aspiring sportswriters. Gisondi, who also advises the student paper at Eastern Illinois, provides examples from college newspapers from around the U.S. His blog includes links to many college newspaper sports sections and to high school sports coverage on major newspaper Web sites. It's worth bookmarking for anyone who teaches sportswriting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Paying attention to youth sports

A new Ad Council campaign is one of the newest indicators of the problems emerging in high school sports as they continue to develop into a big business. Remember the days when prep sports really were "pure"? As LA Times writer Eric Sondheimer recently observed about high school basketball: "It's now about branding opportunities, exposure to recruiters and media, and preparing for future stardom."
The Ad Council campaign, which uses YouTube to reach young athletes, takes aim at steroid use. If you're interested in keeping up with youth sports issues, bookmark Mark Hyman's blog, which is current and informed.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Dropping sports coverage: The answer to declining viewership of local newscasts?

No, argues UNC professor Charlie Tuggle, in the latest edition of Electronic News.
Tuggle says the trend toward scaling back or getting rid of sports segments is misguided. The problem is in how they present sports, which he calls "banal." He accuses too many local sportscasters of being "ESPN wannabes," chasing national stories when they should instead focus on local athletes.
While I think Tuggle is right about the lack of priorities for in local sportscasting, the problem for local newscasts may be much bigger than their sports segments, making the question of how to improve those segments a very low priority for news directors.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Another opening ceremony in Beijing

Most Americans are likely not aware that the world's second-largest sporting event -- the Paralympics -- opened today with ceremonies for thousands of athletes from around the globe. It's hard to get news about the games, although The New York Times has provided some coverage today, and video of events is available online.
Stephanie Wheeler, a wheelchair basketball player on the U.S. women's team, has been sending e-mail dispatches. In her latest, she writes:
"I hope that the Paralympics will prove to be much more than an
arena where medals are won and competitions are held. I hope that this helps to begin to change the face, perceptions, and social identity of people with disabilities in China and all over the world for that matter. Being a part of the Paralympic movement is such an honor and a responsibility that myself and my teammates don't take lightly. Yeah, we are here to compete and win a gold medal, but we are also trying to open the eyes of those who don't believe people with disabilities can live fulfilling lives."

The U.S. team will start going for the gold Sept. 8 with its opener against Germany, also a top-ranked team.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Investigative journalism and match-fixing

Play the Game, an organization made up of sports organizations in Denmark in close cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists, is promoting a book that alleges rampant match-fixing in global professional sports. The book, called The Fix, is written by a Canadian journalist. The allegations, most of which involve soccer, are stunning. A short excerpt of the book, looking at corruption in the Chinese Super League, is available online.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"You can just hear them now"

Will Leitch, founder at the receiving end of Buzz Bissinger's famous tirade against bloggers months ago, told APSE sports editors that Web hits "pay the bills" for more traditional, mainstream coverage (of course, that's not really true...not yet, anyway). In his talk with editors, Leitch defended the idea of fan-driven coverage. He also argued that readers don't know -- or care-- about the difference between what they get on blogspot or at the
Our research with young people (under 25) supports Leitch's contention that the idea of sports journalism has really morphed into a lot of things, including team and league sites, blogs, and traditional reporting. The competition from all corners -- the armchair journalists and the PR writers, he argues, is good for journalists.
Leitch also reported an interesting discussion he had with Bob Costas, who asked him why "everyone online had suddenly become so mean."
Those fans with the snarky, sexist, homophobic comments and a willingness to say just about anything, it turns out, have been there all along, says Leitch, but now they have a voice. Of course, But the fact that these voices now have a forum isn't necessarily a positive development for sports or the culture.