Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will sports save newspapers?

That's what Tim McGuire (veteran journalist, now ASU journalism professor) suggests. He correctly points out the major threat to newspapers by ESPN's regional Web properties in Chicago, Boston, and Dallas. (It is reasonable to speculate that ESPN will do major damage to the Web traffic to newspaper sites in all of these markets.) McGuire suggests, though, that "sports should be the centerpiece of newspaper efforts to rejuvenate themselves" because sports are such an incredible draw.
The problem, though, is that newspapers likely cannot compete on salary with ESPN in regional markets, meaning that it will be very difficult for them to attract (or retain) the personalities affiliated with great sports commentary. And it's the personalities -- McGuire himself mentions former newspaper journalist Pat Forde -- that often draw the fans to sites such as or others for sports coverage.

Friday, September 25, 2009

ESPN to 'tread lightly' in covering youths

ESPN President George Bodenheimer, speaking at a Penn State Forum today, was asked about coverage of high school sports, an area where ESPN continues to expand. He said he believes ESPN has a social responsibility to help protect the integrity and mission of scholastic sports -- and avoid being an "800-pound gorilla." 'We're going to be in it and tread lightly," he said. But at the same time, he argued that the net must be in the game. Large-scale coverage and interest in high school sports is already here, he added.

Sports bloggers, journalists: Not so different

In a new piece posted on the Tucker Center Web site, I share research by the Curley Center that compares the attitudes of journalists and bloggers toward women's sports and Title IX.
It turns out that they're quite similar, which may explain why so much of what we see in new media looks like what we see in old media. Another dynamic driving the tone in the sports blogosphere is the fact that it's still dominated by men -- almost to the exact same degree as that found in newspaper sports departments. What we need to explore is why women, when the institutional barriers to employment are removed, generally shy away from writing and commentating about sports -- despite the fact that Title IX has turned sports into a way of life for millions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Focus: Women's sports and social media

Research in the Curley Center has recently turned to sports and social media -- especially in relationship to the opportunities and challenges for coverage of women's sports. The Tucker Center at the University of Minnesota is also focusing on this important topic. The Tucker Center's blog has two new entries that look at coverage of women's sports and at social media.
Dave Zirin's entry on coverage of women's sports covers some familiar territory for women's sport advocates as he recounts the stereotypes that are common themes (sexpot or mother, for instance). He doesn't extend his discussion into the sports blogosphere -- although the stereotypes he addresses are, unfortunately, common there, too.
The other intriguing entry on the Tucker Center blog addresses the ways women's sports advocates see social media: as a land of opportunity, a place where women's sports coverage and community can flourish. But is that happening?
There are pockets where great things are happening, including But, as I'll discuss soon, we're really seeing more of the same sexism, homophobia and non-coverage of women's sports that "old media" has always given us. The question then has to be: Why?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sprinting toward the 'big-time' model

The movement of scholastic sports toward the college and professional sports models, in terms of media, marketing, and -- time will tell -- values, continues with the announcement in Sports Business Daily yesterday that "MSG Varsity" will launch Sept. 24 to 3 million CableVision subscribers in New York. The RSN-lookalike will feature a daily news show, a reality show, a call-in show, quiz show and games. MSG Varsity will include an "interactive" channel (where viewers can opt for different games) and a fully loaded Web site.
Who will get the advertising revenue? SBJ writes, "Cablevision is not paying the schools a rights fee for the programming, but describes its relationship as 'an unprecedented partnership' that will see the New York media company donate video equipment, Web templates, training and scholarships to schools that participate."
I hope someone keeps an eye on the 'unprecedented partnership' -- and exactly how the "equipment, training and scholarships" take form.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Women's football makes the sports page!

Both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune found room on their sports pages recently for coverage of women's football: the Chicago Bliss, part of the newly launched Lingerie Football League. (I only wish I were making this up.) Both papers ran articles and photos in their sports sections featuring photos of bikini-clad LFL players.
The Sun-Times article, which ran after the team's home opener, ran under a photo and "Chicago's Hottest Team" display head. The story featured Mike Ditka (part owner of the league) and a reference to "wardrobe malfunctions" of players ("the top comes off...").
Is this team more interesting to serious sports fans than the
Chicago Force -- the 2008 Eastern Conference Champions in the Independent Women's Football League? The Force received little-to-no coverage from Chicago papers although the IWFL has been around longer and is clearly a much more serious league.
What does it say about the attitudes toward female athletes and women's sports at these two papers that the Bliss story got play in their sports sections while more serious women's sports enterprises go uncovered?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sports reporters & gambling: The big picture

Our Center for Sports Journalism survey of sports reporters, published in the International Journal of Sport Communication, has gotten attention recently because of our finding that 4 in 10 reporters told us they gambled on sports -- and one in 20 told us they gamble on sports they cover.
The more interesting finding to us, though, is the relationship between behaviors such as gambling by reporters and their beliefs about the mission and values of journalism. The more sports journalists adhered to a "public-service" mission for journalism (the belief that sports reporters should function as "watchdogs" for the public), the more likely they were to reject gambling and other ethically suspect practices that have given sports journalism a toy-box reputation in newsrooms.