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.