Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sports blogging: Don't look for big payoff

Ad Age yesterday published an article looking at the ways free labor is supplying major blog-driven sites such as BleacherReport.com. Bleacher Report, which reportedly will turn a profit this year, uses content provided for free in deals with major media outlets.
Meanwhile, guys like Andrew Brining, featured in the article as a writer who has contributed about 500 articles (gratis) to the site over the past two years, may see blogging as a ticket to a paid career in sportswriting. Brining said, 'If I am good at this, the compensation will come.'
Call it the Bill Simmons syndrome. In our survey of sports bloggers last summer, about 70 percent said they'd take a paid sportswriting job if they could get one.
As the Ad Age article makes clear, though, there are plenty of Brinings out there, willing to write about sports and a host of other topics -- for free. The result may be a business model that discourages organizations from paying for quality reporting and writing. In other words,the free-content trend drags down the entire sports-reporting enterprise.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Chicago Tribune, Sexist Sporting Imagery and the Case for Increased Gender Diversity in Sports Newsrooms

The old “you play like a girl” insult made a comeback today, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. As part of its regular poster series, the newspaper depicted the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Finals opponent Chris Pronger as wearing a figure skating dress with the accompanying text “Chrissy Pronger: Looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane.”

It’s hard to believe such a blatantly sexist image would be given the green light in today’s post-Title IX era, but as research has shown, such discourse is part of the accepted culture in sports newsrooms, where sexist and mysoginist jokes are often considered “normal” and “routine.”

The poster itself uses ideology about the inferiority of women’s sports to suggest that Pronger and the Flyers are also inferior. The trivialization of women’s athletics in mainstream sports media is a common trope in research, but studies have shown that increased gender diversity in sports staffs may affect content. As one recent study found, when sports staffs include more women in gatekeeping positions, coverage of women’s sports tends to more often reject stereotypical frames of female athletes. Although that study focused on the representation of women’s sports, the bigger idea is that more diverse staffs may lead to more thoughtful coverage.

Considering women still are vastly underrepresented in sports newsrooms, and that clearly sexist imagery and discourse continues to advance past myriad gatekeepers, this latest mistake by the Trib offers another compelling reason for the increased gender diversification of sports media staffs.

--Erin Whiteside

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Why the apathy about women's sports coverage?

In a column published this morning, longtime journalist Eric Deggens addresses the lack of attention paid to a new study that empirically verifies what women's sports fans have suspected: Despite Title IX and the soaring numbers of girls and women participating in sports, mainstream coverage of women's sports continues to diminish.
Deggens rightly points out that the study has generally been greeted with apathy. He also rightly points out that media organizations have an obligation, based on their responsibility to address what he calls "an essential journalism failure," to provide fair, plentiful coverage of women's sports.
Of course, he's right.
I suggest, however, that blame the lack of women's sports coverage cannot be placed solely on journalistic organizations. Deggens seems to dismiss what he called "insulting rationalizations" for the lack of coverage, including "this is what the sports audience wants."
Unfortunately, because of the role (entertainment) and the values (masculinity) that we've placed on spectator sports as a culture, sports coverage -- even though considered "news" in many respects(on newscasts, in newspapers)-- tends to be much more audience driven. The powerful, unquestioned association of sports with masculine values has a negative impact on the potential of women's sports fandom to flourish on a mass scale.
In other words, lack of women's sports coverage a cultural problem -- not one that can be blamed solely on media organizations.
The solution is not as easy as "build it, and they will come." Fans won't come in the numbers media organizations see as sustainable until we, as a culture, move away from adhering to gender norms that make the sidelining of women in sports seem "common-sense" -- drawing nothing more than a yawn when it is pointed out to us.
-- M. Hardin