Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Predicting the death of independent sports coverage

Poynter's Steve Klein posted comments today about a recent blog post by Mark Cuban that suggests pro leagues subsidize newspaper coverage of sports.
In other words, pro teams band together to pay the salaries of beat writers and, in return, get guaranteed space every day. "I know this is in violation of all previous principles of editorial church and state," Cuban writes, but he also argues that pro leagues need the promotional services of journalists (which they have had for more than a century. They just haven't had to pay for it.)
Klein doesn't raise the myriad ethical issues -- and there are many -- that would arise if such an arrangement became reality. He predicts that some publications will take the bait and "slap an advertorial label on the coverage" to save jobs. But advertorial arrangements with sports orgs -- often not labeled -- have already been part of the financial strategy for some papers.
Klein instead suggests (although with funding from pro leagues, raising, again, the ethical issues) a ProPublica or Huffington-style pool arrangement of top sports journalism talent.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Women in sports: Be "20-percent better"

A Dec. 20 article in the Globe and Mail, "Women on TV: Looks First, Knowledge Later," puts a new spin on an old story about the premium on sexual attractiveness for women covering sports. The new angle: How Web sites such as Deadspin are at once raising the profile and diminishing the journalistic credentials of female sports journalists. Comments on sports blogs are degrading, insulting and sometimes threatening. To be considered credible, an NHL senior vice president of broadcasting recommends women be "20 percent better" than their male counterparts.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

AP: 'Helping athletes graduate has become its own academic profession'

An Associated Press story released this weekend shows the phenomenal investment big-time college programs are making to keep their athletes academically eligible to play. The article, which raises serious concerns about the priorities of public universities, was written after months of work to gather financial information and interview athletes, faculty and administrators.

This story is evidence that, as Steve Bilafer with the Sports Business Journal wrote last month, the AP is needed more than ever on the nation's sports pages, which are cutting staffs and resources even as youth and collegiate sports programs are growing and resembling the professional ("sportainment") model for sports.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Athletes: Crafting their own messages

A story published in the San Diego Union Tribune, "Sites to behold," provides a lengthy discussion of the ways athletes are using the Web to bypass traditional media, build their fan base and feed the bottom line. (A recent example, as reporter Tod Leonard points out, was Tiger Woods' use of his Web site to announce surgery on his ailing knee.)
The story includes a list of athlete and team Web sites that stay updated and offer interesting material. They include those of Curt Schilling and Pete Carroll, among others.
What is most interesting to me is what Leonard's story says about the sites of female athletes such as Maria Sharapova and Danica Patrick.. The emphasis--especially on Patrick's Web site -- seems to be far more on sex appeal than sports. Patrick's father says that the emphasis is by design; 'Eventually, she won't be racing, and we still have to keep going.' The same is true for male athletes, right? What are the strategies they use on their Web sites?
It would be interesting to see if the de-emphasis on athleticism is a theme across many of the Web sites of high-profile female athletes.